The Dragon Boat festival, otherwise known as Duanwu, is celebrated throughout China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore but it’s roots are firmly placed in China. Here’s our guide to experiencing the very best of the festival and what else to enjoy when the festival is over.
The Dragon Boat Festival
This iconic festival has been celebrated in China for centuries and this year falls on 12th June. Celebrated when the sun is at its strongest, it is believed that the festival dates back to ancient China started to commemorate the poet Qu Yan who drowned in the Mi Lo River. Legend has it that locals fed fish in the river rice parcels to ward them away from the poet’s body before they took to their boats to reclaim the body. Much of that legend holds true with today’s festival.
One of the best places to enjoy the festival is in the Hunan province, which is home to the Mi Lo River. In the ancient town of Fenghuang, a spectacular Dragon boat race is held at Huilong Pavillion. These impressive boats are beautifully designed and coloured, complete with drums which beat so loud they’re sure to scare any fish away! The boat race is an exhilarating experience as the teams move as fast as is humanly possible to grab the flag and win the race. Follow this up with duck chasing, before sampling some traditional Zongzi, rice dumplings and drink some local wine. In the evening, you’ll be treated to a spectacular firework show.
Natural Wonders in Huang
Once the festival is over, it’s time to explore what else Huang province has to offer and you’re certainly spoilt for choice. Here you’ll find Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a UNESCO Global Geopark. There aren’t many places in the world that are more breathtakingly beautiful than here and it is said that the scenery here helped inspire the landscape in Avatar. The most striking thing about this park is the quartz-sandstone pillars that rise up from dense and lush forestry. Hike your way through the park and take a ride in a cable car to amazing views. For something extra special, you can even take a ride up over 1000ft on the outside of a cliff in the Bai Long Elevator. Not for the faint hearted! You’ll need a few days to explore the park so base yourself at nearby Wulingyan.
The province is also home to Mount Hengshan located in Hengyang City. This holy mountain has over 70 peaks and is nestled amongst a forest of trees. Enjoy the scenic views from the peaks before making your way down to the foot of the mountain to Nanyue Damiao. This sacred temple is one of the largest temples in China.
Cultural sites in Hunan
Hunan is also blessed with a rich cultural heritage, giving you much to explore. Changsha, the provincial capital, is home to a vast range of cultural sites to visit. To learn more about traditional Chinese culture, visit the Mawangdui Han Tombs, the Firework Museum and the Bamboo Slips Museum. For something a little more modern, visit the Changsha Window of the World Theme Park where you can see replica buildings of the Egyptian Pyramids, Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Sydney Opera House!
Nightlife and entertainment is bustling in Changsha and is mainly centred around Jiefang Xilu. This street stretches on for 3km and is home to a whole host of bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres. Hunan even has its own blend of Chinese cuisine so make sure you indulge in some fine foods during your stay. Its unique blend of flavours certainly match the climate as the dishes are rather hot. but utterly delicious. Take to the streets to enjoy this amazing food in its perfect surroundings.