Events & Festivals > Festivals & Celebrations

Dragonboat (Duanwu) Festival

By: christine on 12 Mar 2013
Held annually on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar, usually occurring in June, the Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival), or Dumpling Festival, is a Chinese festival which commemorates the legendary poet from China, Qu Yuan, who served his country with integrity, until the government turned corrupt and sent him into exile. Distraught at this turn of events, he eventually drowned himself. The people who knew his righteousness sailed across the river in boats looking for his body, making loud noises to scare away river creatures, while throwing rice dumplings to deter any from eating his body.

Today, Qu Yuan's life and death is remembered through the eating of dumplings and dragon boat races. Have a taste of these delicious rice dumplings available island-wide during the festival. Better known as 'bak chang' or 'zong zi', these dumplings consist of glutinous rice filled with Chinese barbecue pork, cooked peanuts or mushrooms, wrapped up in silk or banana leaves and are often boiled or steamed over several hours.

Make your way down to Bedok Reservoir and watch the annual Singapore Dragon Boat Racing Festival as teams row to the sounds of drums through to the finishing line.

Since the country's first race at Hong Kong in 1978, the Singapore Dragon Boat Festival has been held yearly at Bedok Reservoir. What started out as a competition between locals, now sees dragon boat racers from all over the world with their intricately decorated boats and loud drums, as 20 able-bodied members put their rowing skills to the test. The rowing action of the dragon-boaters symbolises the desperate attempts of village fishermen at beating their oars on the water to drive away man-eating fish as they tried to rescue Qu Yuan.

Don't miss the lively atmosphere with the annual boat races and delicious rice dumplings to be had! Here is a list of things to do during the Duanwu Festival:

1. Preparing zongzi (dumplings)

Why not try your hand at making some of these tasty delights during the dumpling festival? Typically, rice dumplings are made with the following fillings: either mung beans, salted pork, char siew (chinese barbecued pork), chestnuts, cooked peanuts, red bean paste or a combination, wrapped in glutinous rice. The rice dumpling is then made into the shape of a tetrahedral by wrapping it in bamboo leaves. Dumplings sometimes need to be steamed/boiled, depending on how the rice was prepared prior to the adding of the fillings.

2. Watching dragon boat races in Singapore

Get the adrenaline rush even without being the ones racing down the rivers! On 9th and 10th July 2011, rowing crews of 24 men from all over the globe will congregate at the Bedok Reservoir to show of their prowess. Come on down to witness the fierce sportsmanship of these dragonboaters during the Singapore Dragon Boat Festival.

3. Other traditional activities

Traditionally, in China, the Duanwu Festival (or duan wu jie) means many symbolic rituals and activities. They also drink realgar wine (a chinese liquor), hang up icons or images of Zhong Kui, a Chinese king of spirits (to drive away evil), and appreciate poetry in commemoration of Qu Yuan.

In 2012, the Duanwu festival will fall on 23 June.

You must be logged in to add a tip
  • Also simply known as the "Dumpling Festival"
  • Dumpling prices can range from around $1 for small ones without fillings, around $2 for normal sized ones and even beyond $10 for specialty dumplings (eg with abalone). Expect prices to increase as the date draws closer to Duan Wu Jie!