3 June 2022

Canberra's annual Dragon Boat Festival is back to highlight China's unique history and traditions

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Dragon boats

Dragon boats racing from last year’s festival. Photo: Chen Chu.

UPDATE: Predicted bad weather has caused organisers to change the venue from the Nara Peace Park to the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre, 180 London Cct, Canberra.

The annual Dragon Boat Festival is paddling into Lake Burley Griffin this June as part of a celebration of Chinese culture.

In combination with the Canberra dragon boat societies, not only does this festival accommodate a community of rowers, but it highlights one of the biggest Chinese festivals celebrated globally.

Federation of Chinese Community of Canberra Inc (FCCCI) president Hao Gu said it had been celebrated in Canberra for over five years.

“Canberra is a very multicultural city, so we love to get our local community together to enjoy and understand the traditional Chinese culture and arts,” Mr Gu said.

“It doesn’t matter what background you come from, it’s about coming together, having some fun and it is also a part of our efforts to continue building Canberra as a harmonious society that’s inclusive … we welcome everyone to the event.”

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Mr Gu said the festival was part of the broader Chinese culture and was based on the commemoration of Qu Yuan – a very much admired Chinese scholar-official and dragon God (or water God) who faithfully served his people in the fourth century BC and then drowned himself in a river.

“The legend tells that people in China used to wrap sticky rice in plant leaves in a pyramid shape, tie them with colourful strings and then throw them into the water,” he said.

It was believed that by doing this, the fish in the water would eat the sticky rice rather than Qu Yuan’s body, therefore, he would stay protected.

“This is how the festival came about,” Mr Gu said.

“These days, people don’t do that anymore, they just do the boat racing competitions in the lake and make the sticky rice pyramid [a traditional Chinese dish called Zongzi] with their families every year in memory of him.”

The racing boats are like dragons to scare off the evil spirits in the water and protect Qu Yuan.

There will be sweet sticky rice dishes available with a date filling, as well as savoury filled sticky rice dishes filled with pork to try on the day.

People making Zongzi

It is a Chinese tradition for families to make Zongzi – the triangular leaf-wrapped stick-rice dish every year as part of the Dragon Boat Festival. Photo: Chen Chu.

This year’s Dragon Boat Festival festivities in Canberra, known in Chinese as ‘Duanwu Jie’, will be held on Sunday, 5 June, at the Beijing Garden at Nara Peace Park in Yarralumla and will feature a variety of festivities.

“We will have lots of singing, dancing, Tai Chi performances and some stalls for cultural activities, including demonstrations on things like how to write in Chinese calligraphy and how to cut special patterns using paper,” Mr Gu said. *

Around 300 people are expected to attend the Dragon Boat Festival.

“We’re still in the process of getting more people involved in the festival, but so far, we’ve received a great response,” Mr Gu said.

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Mr Gu said Canberra is a very multicultural city, with over 20,000 local Chinese people in the ACT, and they many more will come along to enjoy the festival.

“This festival is about celebrating the traditional Chinese culture where people can be together, have a good time and enjoy the traditional sticky rice food,” he said.

“We have been isolated for a long time, and people haven’t been going out as often, so we just want to change that and get people out and about.

“I’m really looking forward to having a wonderful festival with lots of people and lots of fun … and I hope we will have good weather.”

The festival will run from 10 am to 1:30 pm.

*This story has been amended after an earlier version incorrectly suggested the Canberra Yacht Club is one of the event’s organisers.

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It seems the date is wrong. Other website says it is Saturday (I.e. Today)

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