The Dragon Boat Festival in Saltaire 5-7 May

The Dragon Boat Festival in Saltaire 5-7 May

Bradford Dragon Boat Festival held on the river Aire at Roberts Park in Saltaire, just down the road from Shimu’s showroom, and this year it’s bigger and better than ever. It starts today (Friday) with the Youth Championships, and Saturday is the Bradford Charity Dragonboat Championships where teams from across the north will race for the prestige of being recognised as 2017 champions.

The final day, Sunday, is the Corporate Championships, where local companies vie against each other for victory. All weekend there’ll be fun for the family with food stalls, rides and entertainment. We will be open on Saturday as normal so why not tie in a visit to Shimu with the activities in Saltaire – well worth a visit in its own right as a World Heritage Site.

Dragon boat racing is a fast growing and exciting water sport. It’s now so popular in Britain that there is a national association, the British Dragon Boat Racing Association, which has information about local teams and events.

Dragon Boat Racing — from legend to sporting event!

 Dragon Boat Racing has ancient Chinese origins and its history has been traced back more than 2000 years. The first participants were superstitious Chinese villagers who celebrated the 5th day of the 5th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Racing was held to avert bad luck and encourage the rains needed for a good harvest. They worshipped the dragon of Asia as it was traditionally a symbol of water and was said to rule the rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and rains. Chinese dragon

Over the years a second story gained popularity and came to represent the festival – the saga of Qu Yuan. Legend has it that the poet Qu Yuan was from the kingdom of Chu and, following the king falling under the influence of corrupt ministers, spent many years wandering the countryside and composing great poetry. On learning of his kingdom’s defeat, he leapt into the Mi Lo river holding a rock in a display of his heartfelt sorrow. The people loved Qu Yuan very much and raced out in their fishing boats to the middle of the river in a vain attempt to save him. They beat on drums and splashed their oars in the water, trying to keep the dragons away from his body.

In order to commemorate Qu Yuan, every fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people beat drums and paddle out in boats on the river as they once did to keep evil spirits away from his body.

Dragon boat racing is the most important activity during the Dragon Boat Festival. The wooden boats are shaped and decorated in the form of a Chinese dragon. The boat size varies by region but is generally about 20–35 meters in length and needs 30–60 people to paddle it!

Other traditions during the festival include eating sticky rice dumplings (zongzi), hanging Chinese mugwort and calumus, drinking realgar wine, and wearing perfume pouches.

Happy racing!​

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