Explore Other Cultures ad the Boston Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon boat


The 37th Annual Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is scheduled to take place on June 11th through the 12th, with races, cultural performances, arts and crafts demonstrations and a wide variety of vendors providing a weekend of fun for everyone involved.

The Legend of Dragon Boat Racing

Traditionally held on the fifth day of the fifth moon on the lunar calendar, which falls somewhere between late May and mid-June on the solar calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival is meant to commemorate the life and death of Qu Yuan. An ancient patriot-poet who lived from 340-278 B.C., Qu Yuan was a minister and an advocate for reforms in his home state of Chu. The king refused to listen to his advice, however, and banished Qu Yuan from the state of Chu. While in exile, Qu Yuan wrote poetry about his country and his people. Upon learning that his home had been invaded, he drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. The people of Chu tried to rescue him, but were too late. To keep the fish from his body and as a sacrifice to his spirit, the people splashed furiously and through steamed rice wrapped in a reed leaf into the water.

Ever since the death of Qu Yuan, dragon boat races have taken place on the rivers in China as people throw zung-ze into the river in in his memory. Today, this celebration is recreated in Boston with the annual Dragon Boat Festival. Not only does the event feature dragon boat races, but it also offers food, fun and vendors.

The Race

This year, the race seeding trials will take place on June 11th on the Charles River from the Pierce boathouse at MIT. The actual races as well as the finals and festival activities will take place on June 12th on the Charles River near Harvard Square. All participants race in Great White North fiberglass Hong Kong-style boats, with boats, drums, paddles and standard size flotation devices all being provided. The length of the course will be approximately 500 meters as it spans from the Western Avenue Bridge to the Weeks footbridge.

Arts & Crafts, Performers and Food

As part of the fun and celebration of culture, a variety of arts & crafts vendors will also be at the festival. In addition to having items for sale, festivalgoers will also have the opportunity to enjoy demonstrations and to even participate in workshops. Some of the arts and crafts expected to be represented in one way or another include:

  • Brushpainting: Watercolor on rice paper with Chinese brushes
  • Chinese Calligraphy: Beautiful letter writing and abstract art
  • Peking Opera Masks/Face Painting: Face painting and masks will be available for children to color.
  • Chinese Macrame: Knot tying in patterns to make ornaments and other items.
  • Chinese Shuttlecocks: Construction of Chinese Shuttlecocks, which are used in the traditional sport that involves continually kicking the shuttlecock to keep it in the air.
  • Chopsticks: Test your ability to use chopsticks with a variety of fun challenges.
  • Colored Dough Figures: Miniatures of animals and storybook characters made from dough created by mixing flour, water, salt and food coloring.
  • Ornamental Zung-ze: Made from yarn, paper and aromatic herbs.
  • Paper Folding: Though originated in Japan, origami has also become a Chinese tradition.
  • Savory Zung-ze: Demonstrations of the making of this traditional rice dish consisting of rice steamed in bamboo leaves, peanuts, pork and Chinese mushrooms.
  • Tangrams: An ancient Chinese puzzle game also referred to as “seven clever pieces.”

The festival will also feature a number of performers demonstrating dance, music and martial arts, while vendors will offer a variety of different types of foods to enjoy.

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