On my first visa, I had to leave the country every sixty days. I went to Thailand in April for Songkran. In June I flew to Hong Kong for the annual Dragon Boat Festival. I don’t know what to write about it other than it was pretty damn cool.
I don’t have any pictures of the races’ scene-stealers, a women’s Dragon Boat team from Latin America called the Latin Dragons. They all wore wigs, blues and yellows and reds, and big sunglasses. And kept singing a five-word song that captured everyone hearts. Or if not their hearts, dug holes into their brains. It went something like:
Olé olé, olé olé olé.
I have no idea how the Latin Dragons fared. The ones with the best costumes didn’t always translate to better rowing ability. Some were there to win. Some were there to have a good time. I’d say almost half the teams were companies. There was Goldman-Sachs. Disney. Price Waterhouse. There were many teams, like the Latin Dragons, that were connected by geography or ethnicity. And some teams had no common thread except they drank at the same bar and said one day, let’s start a Dragon Boat team!
I kept meaning to edit together my video footage of the event, which does include a rousing musical performance by the aforementioned Latin Dragons, but until then, here are my photos of the races at Stanley Beach.
According to everydaysaholiday.org…
The inspiration for the holiday comes from the death of one of China’s first great poets, Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a political advisor in the late forth century BC [and early 3rd century] who urged his king to unite with other kingdoms against the rising state Qin. However, jealous and corrupt political opponents counseled the king against the advice of Qu Yuan, who was accused of treason and forced into exile. It was during this exile that Qu Yuan traveled the country gathering and recording local folklore and legends. When Qin did eventually attack and capture the capital city of Ying, Qu Yuan composed one of his greatest works, “Lament for Ying”. He then committed suicide by tying himself to a rock and jumping into a river.
The local fishermen tried to keep the fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body by throwing food into the water. Over time this became a tradition. Later a legend gained credence that Qu Yuan was killed by a great underwater dragon.
The Maoist government banned celebrations of Duanwu in 1949. It wasn’t until only a few years ago that the Chinese government officially reinstated three of the country’s most popular holidays: Tomb Sweeping Day, Mid-Autumn Festival and Duanwu.
Another story I’ve heard is that when Qu Yuan was lost at sea, the king sent out a fleet of boats looking for him, to no avail. To this day the Chinese emulate the search for him by heading out in their boats on Duanwu. But I haven’t found any further info on this version.
According to the Hong Kong Museum of History…
“…the Hoklo community in Tai Po also perform the dragon-boat dance during the annual celebration of the deity Dawangye (“Great King-Lord”). During the celebrations, an impressive procession made up of teams of lion dancers and contingents of devotees bearing lavish offerings parade through the streets towards the temple, all led by the Holo dragon-boat dancers.”
Did the king really send out a fleet of books to find him? ‘Cause yeah, I can see why that didn’t work.
Whoops! I fixed it. Boats, not books. But had he sent a fleet of books, I think Qu Yuan the poet would have appreciated having something to read while underwater.