Honouring the dragon god

Honouring the dragon god

A unique boat race tradition is becoming more accessible to youngsters

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The boat-racing event featured fun activities for students at Aberdeen Village
The boat-racing event featured fun activities for students at Aberdeen Village
Photos: Jonathan Wong
As they lower their boat onto the water before the race, the athletes remain silent. They are not just going to race; they are honouring the "dragon god".

For the Tanka people, the Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race during the city's annual Dragon Boat Festival has strong cultural significance. After a century of races, they are still fiercely competitive and follow traditions closely. Now to popularise those traditions, the Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race Committee has for the first time expanded race-related activities to the younger generation.

Around 30 students, from Form Two to Form Five, from PLK Wai Yin College took part in the first-ever Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race Experience School Programme. They received a couple of two-hour training sessions, during which they also learned about traditions.

Terrence Cheung Chiu-fu, a Form Five student from the college, had never trained on water before. "I am a basketball player and dragon boat racing is totally new to me," he says. "It is a sport that helps you build up your fitness and boost solidarity with your schoolmates."

His schoolmate Leung Hoi-yiu says she knows little about the long history of dragon boat races in the district, although Wai Yin College is actually in Aberdeen.

"This was a great history and liberal studies lesson for me," she says. "Now I know more about the local community."

District councilor Chan Fu-ming, vice-chairman of the local race committee, says he was touched by the sight of the students training hard.

"It reminded me of the old days," he says. "I am a Tanka and when I was young I lived on a boat. I often joined my friends and neighbours for dragon boat training. We always had a great time. I hope we can pass on traditions to new generations."

Chan says feedback from participating students indicates a high level of interest. More schools will be invited to join the scheme next year, he adds.

Next Monday, the Tankas will lower their boat once again onto the water in Aberdeen Harbour. Make sure to be there for the event, which will also feature food stalls where chefs will make the famous Aberdeen fish balls.

For details of how to get a free admission ticket, visit www.aberdeendragonboat.hk

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