Happy Dragon Boat Festival – Han and Miao

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On Monday, the Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated in cities throughout all of China.  Myth says that the holiday commemorates the death of a famous poet and statesman Quan Wu, who committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.  Locals who admired him supposedly tried to prevent the decomposition of his body by paddling (dragon) boats in the river to scare fish away.

Today, the holiday is celebrated with jubilant water races that are fun for everyone.  Races in both Beijing and Hangzhou happily welcome experts, beginners, foreigners and locals to partake.  Time Out Beijing found that one can even receive proper training in the sport at the Golden Sail Water Sports Club.

Happy Dragon Boat Festival - Han and Miao

Our local partners in Guizhou province that the festivities will last even longer than the one day because actually, June 6 marked the Han Chinese holiday.  In the minority Miao culture, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the Qingshui River and commemorates a different folk story – that of a hero named Guya, who killed an evil dragon.

By tradition, there are three dragon boats, one is 17 meters long (mother boat), the other two are 10 meters long (child boat), all the boats are made from fir, each with a carved dragon’s head on it’s prow. Before the dragon boat sets out, somebody sings an auspicious song to the boatmen, wishing them a bon voyage, the crew row the boat from one village to another. When they approach a village, they fire guns to announce their arrival. The villagers set off firecrackers and go to meet them, and then pleas are made to the dragon to bestow happiness on each community.

After lunch, the boats stop ashore alongside the river bank. Pigs, goats, ducks and geese are presented to the crew and headman, the boatmen eat glutinous rice balls and meat on the boats, without the aid of bowls and chopsticks. It is said that after eating food from a dragon-boat, one will be safe from disaster and everything will proceed smoothly.

Throughout this Miao celebration of the festival, horse races and bullfights are held, families gather on the bank to eat and gossip, and the nights are filled with songfests.

Happy Dragon Boat Festival - Han and Miao


This year, these celebrations will last from June 26 to June 30.  To inquiry about journeys to Guizhou to experience the festivities first-hand, please contact us at info@wildchina.com.

Photo by Time Out Beijing & WildChina local partners

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