Paddlers racing to the finishing line at UK Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. /Murray Job/CGTN
Europe’s biggest dragon boat race has paddled its way back to Manchester. This year’s UK Chinese Dragon Boat Festival involved around 40 amateur teams and a dozen professional teams taking part in the two-day event, writes Wang Qiwei in Manchester, UK.
This fun-filled race saw teams of paddlers and drummers racing along the waters of Salford Quays – in the adjoining city of Salford – to the beat of the drum.
It requires teamwork and staying in sync to win the race, but for the amateur paddlers – many of them first-timers – the trophy may not be the main aim.
“It’s the first time for all of us on the boat to participate in the race. We could hear the crowds cheering and it was really brilliant,” said Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum.
“We were pretty dreadful but we don’t mind, because we learnt a lot through the race and I like the sense of camaraderie.”
It may not rank alongside the multi-billion-dollar football clubs that Manchester is usually associated with, but the annual dragon boat race brings a wealth beyond money – a social integration between the Chinese community and people from around the world.
The festival brings people together. / Murray Job/CGTN
“We want to introduce the Chinese culture to the local people, and ask them to join us together to row in the dragon boat and celebrate the festival. This will help make a multicultural inclusive society,” said Hanxin Yang, Chairman of Xinhua Chinese Association.
“We make the contribution for people to learn and love the Chinese culture, we share the enjoyment as we row in boat together, and make this world more harmonious and peaceful,” Yang added.
Local VIPs and members of the community came along to watch the fun. /CMG
Zheng Zeguang, Chinese Ambassador to the UK, sent a congratulatory message. He said that dragon boat racing is a symbol of the Dragon Boat Festival, which vividly embodies the spirit of perseverance, unity and struggle of the Chinese nation. He hoped that people of insight from all walks of life in the two countries will join hands to carry forward the spirit of dragon boat culture, create highlights of cooperation, enhance people-to-people bonds, and promote the steady and long-term development of China-UK relations.
With a history going back more than 2,000 years, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated across China and around the world. The festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet (living about 340-278 BC) known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry.
It wasn’t just about winning – but some people did… /CMG
“It’s about how we celebrate the cultural diversity in the city,” said Paul Dennett, Mayor of Salford. “It’s also about the longstanding Chinese community here in Salford and Manchester, and their contributions over many years of lives in the city. The event gives them a platform and voice to celebrate their culture and tradition.”
Steps away from the water there’s also plenty to do on dry land, with dragon dance, lion dance and traditional Chinese costume shows taking the stage, many of which were presented jointly by Chinese and British performers. Visitors could also have a bite of zongzi, sticky-rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves.
“I have participated in this event many times before, and every time it’s great to take part,” said René Bektashi-Brown, who performed Kung Fu and lion dance at the festival. “There are loads of people, and it’s always an inspiration to see people rolling out all the performances.”
With more than a decade of history, this year’s event was organized by Xinhua Chinese Association together with Salford City Council and the British Dragon Boat Racing Association (BDA).
The festival was publicized by CMG on its multilingual media platforms in Europe including Canale YaoYang, multilingual platform Going, CMG’s Chinese Language Video Festivals accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook Watch, CGTN Europe’s social media accounts and other platforms. No surprise that it received widespread attention, reaching a total audience of around 5.85 million in Europe.
Jiang Qiudi, Jin Jing, Xu Qi, Yang Jingjing, Wang Meng and Li Yaru also contributed to this article.