December 7, 2023

What Is Dragon Boat Festival

  • July 17, 2023
What Is Dragon Boat Festival

The age-old tradition lives in Singapore with the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday with apocryphal origins dating back to China’s Warring States era. Usually, the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, generally in June. This festival has a history of over 2,000 years and is widely observed in China and other East Asian countries. The Dragon Boat Festival in Singapore is renowned for its vibrant dragon boat race, delicious sticky rice dumplings called zongzi, and various customs and traditions. Besides, the Dragon boat race and Dumplings- two of the most distinctive elements of the festival have their roots in a story of patriotism and politics. 

A legendary figure:

One of the most enduring legends associated with this celebration tells the story of Qu Yuan, an incorruptible state minister during China’s Warring States era. Once a trusted advisor, his emperor banished him due to political intrigue and, in despair, threw himself into the river and ended his life on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

Because he was well-loved by ordinary people, fishermen beat their oars against the water in a desperate attempt to stop the man-eating fish in the river from devouring his body. Others threw cooked rice wrapped in leaves into the water, hoping fish would eat them. The stories have fused well with the tradition of Chinese fishermen using dragon-shaped boats to appease river dragons,’ which evolved into a sport during the Han dynasty. 

Beating the Drums:

Today, many features of the ancient races remain intact, including the long and narrow boat shapes, the prows painted with dragons’ heads, and the drums which set the pace for the rowers.

Dragon boat festival Singapore creates a festive atmosphere. As per rules, participants pull furiously in their oars, leaders beat their drums, flags are waved, and spectators cheer for their favorite teams. 

It is a vigorous action, tragic, history, and thrilling camaraderie blended into one compelling and exciting spectacle. 

Some facts about the Dragon Festival Singapore:

Below are some facts about the Dragon Festival Singapore: 

1. Its origin story was, in fact, not about the dragon boats:

At its core, Dragon Boat Festival is a heartfelt commemoration of Qu Yuan, a Chinese Poet, and statesman passionate about and caring for his country and people. But the festival’s history doesn’t start and end with Qu Yuan’s tale; it predates it. 

2. The date changes every year, racing across 2 months:

The Dragon Boat Festival Singapore takes place on the 6th day of the lunar month each year, solemnly remembering Qu Yuan’s passing. 

Despite no public holiday in Singapore for the Dragon Boat Festival, it holds immense significance in China. 

3. Rice dumplings are eaten to commemorate a poet:

For the uninitiated, rice dumplings are sticky glutinous rice with fillings wrapped up snugly in bamboo or reed leaves. They come in different shapes and sizes but often take the form of triangular-based pyramids. 

Many types of rice dumplings are Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, and Hakka. Are some dumplings with fillings like pork belly, mushrooms, dried prawns, and salted egg yolks. 

4. There are other festive foods besides rice dumplings:

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated differently in different regions across different cultures:

  • The locals of Fujian Province celebrate with Jiandui, a sweet fried cake.
  • In Wuhan, the focus turns to the seasonal delicacy of eel.
  • In Wenzhou, there are thin, rolled-up pancakes. 
  • Besides eating eggs steamed with tea in Nanchang, the egg shells are dried red and hung around Children’s necks for good luck. 

5. Dragon Boat Race winners are said to have good luck for a year:

When Qu Yuan met his tragic fate# in the river, the people sprang into action, desperately trying to recover his body from the river depths. Hence, legends believed that the team that emerged victorious in the race would be blessed with good luck and a year of happiness. 

6. Perfume Sachets are worn to ward off evil:

One way is the hand-made perfume sachets, where mugwort and realgar are placed within beautifully sewn pouches decorated with embroidery. Besides, these aromatic sachets serve as good luck talismans, protecting evil forces.

Moreover, the Dragon Boat Festival is closely linked with believing in the power of the number five. It is common to see people wearing small bags filled with medicinal herbs, called sachets or amulets, around their necks or tied to their belts. These sachets contain herbs believed to have protective properties and are said to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.


Overall, the Dragon Boat Festival is a vibrant and lively celebration that reflects the rich cultural heritage of China. It combines elements of history, folklore, and traditional customs into a festive occasion that brings communities together. Whether it’s the exciting dragon boat race, the delicious flavors of zongzi, or the customs and traditions passed down through generations, the Dragon Boat Festival continues to be cherished and celebrated by people worldwide. 

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