Feature: Cape Town celebrates Chinese Dragon Boat Festival with thrilling races

Source:xinhua 2024-06-11

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated with a competitive and inclusive dragon boat race on Saturday in Cape Town, making a splash in South Africa's legislative capital.

Also known as Duanwu, the festival is a traditional Chinese holiday observed on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, which falls on June 10 this year.

The holiday commemorates Qu Yuan, a loyal statesman and a patriotic poet in the State of Chu during the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.). He tragically drowned himself in the Miluo River after he was accused of treason and banished for his well-intended advice to the king. The festival is celebrated with dragon boat races and the consumption of sticky rice dumplings called zongzi.

This year's dragon boat race was the second event of its kind held in Cape Town, following the success of last year's celebrations. Set against the stunning backdrop of the iconic Table Mountain, the race featured 10 teams competing in various categories, including 100-meter, 500-meter and the popular tug-of-war competitions.

Dong Gang, a leader of the Chinese community in Cape Town and one of the event organizers, said that among the 10 teams participating this year, one team is composed entirely of local Chinese residents. "For us overseas Chinese, we are very proud to see the excellent traditional culture of our ancestral country being carried forward and expanded overseas," he said.

"Dragon boat racing, as one of the most traditional cultural sports, originated in China. Therefore, as overseas Chinese, we are very happy to see it being inherited and developed abroad," he added.

Igsaan Salie, chairperson of the Cape Town Dragon Boat Association, said that the dragon boat race perfectly blends Chinese culture with South African traits.

"I think for me personally, the thing I have enjoyed most about dragon boating is seeing 20 people facing the same direction, working toward a united goal. That really resonates well with South Africans," Salie said. "It is a great team sport and an opportunity for us to enjoy the natural beauty of Cape Town while being on the water."

Pam Newby, a member of the Cape Town Dragon Boat Association, agreed with Salie, emphasizing that dragon boating captivates people of all ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. "In 1995, we formed the first dragon boat team. The wonderful thing about this sport is that it includes men and women, young and old. I am the second oldest paddler in Cape Town, and we have youngsters as young as 12 in the boats," Newby said.

"It gets people working together; it breaks down all sorts of boundaries -- racial, sexual, whether you're working or not working, students or company directors -- you are all in the same boat, working together. The important thing is, are you pulling together as a team?" Newby added.

Davina Meyer, a member of the winning team in Saturday's race, echoed Newby's sentiments. She said there is much to learn from the sport and Chinese culture. "The dragon boat itself is such a great team sport. We sit together, we are one team in a boat, we are all the same person, we are one person, and that is great," Meyer said. "There's so much we can learn from Chinese culture, and I think that is what we take from the Chinese culture." 


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