Dragons and Drums - Duanwu, Hong Kong / by Harriet Dedman

Today is Hong Kong’s Dragon Boat Festival. This is the oldest international festival of its kind, where teams from all over the world (and a huge number from right here) descend on the waterfront village of Stanley, snugly set on the Island's southern coastline. 

Brightly coloured flags flirt in the sea-breeze, as the old teak boats battle it out for the championship, with teams of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a cox. This is a sport with its history in the ancient rituals of the Duanwu celebrations, spanning over 2000 years throughout southern China. Traditionally made in the Pearl River Delta, the old boats are decorated with the tops and tails of fierce dragons, glistening gold in the sunshine. An emblem for strength, reverence, community discipline and virility, dragon boating and her emboldened war cries have become a much-loved tradition in Hong Kong, fuelling the competitive pulse of both Gweilo and Chinese.

Whilst today's finals in Stanley form the grand extravaganza of the weekend (with junks and spectators circling the lanes), races have been taking place throughout the SAR over the last week and weekend.

On Saturday, as I cycled along Cheung Chau’s harbour, three local crews were drawing a crowd, as they paced across the water - navigating fishing trawlers, a ferry and the occasional bewildered seagull.  With the captivation of old and young, the yelps, the cheers and the enormous grins, the sun beamed down over Lantau Peak.