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How to Celebrate the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

Perhaps one of the most well-known Hong Kong celebrations around the world, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is held in commemoration of a poet’s suicide. This facet of the Dragon Boat Festival history may seem odd, and even dark, but it provides great insight into past and current Hong Kong culture.

At, we hope to make learning about Hong Kong culture and the Cantonese language both fun and informative. Any successful language learner can tell you that comprehending and respecting a country’s culture is a vital step in mastering its language.

That said, we hope you enjoy delving into the Dragon Boat Festival with us!

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1. What is the Dragon Boat Festival?

What is Dragon Boat Festival?

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the ancient poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide. It must sound pretty unfathomable—how would the suicide of a poet become a festival, or even a public holiday? Let’s look into the origins of the festival.

Qu Yuan, as the Minister over the Masses in the State of Chu, repeatedly tried to convince the fatuous King of Chu to ally with the State of Qi and fight against the State of Qin. But all his endeavors failed and he was exiled. Finally, Chu was destroyed by Qin. Full of grief and agony, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River on May 5 on the lunar calendar. Qu Yuan composed a lot of poetry expressing his concern for the country, which is why he was named the patriotic poet.

2. When is the Dragon Boat Festival?

Dragon Boat on Water

So, When is Dragon Boat Festival?

In Hong Kong, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date on the Gregorian calendar for the next ten years.

  • 2019: June 7
  • 2020: June 25
  • 2021: June 14
  • 2022: June 3
  • 2023: June 22
  • 2024: June 10
  • 2025: May 31
  • 2026: June 19
  • 2027: June 9
  • 2028: May 28

3. Reading Practice: Dragon Boat Festival Traditions

From Dragon Boat racing to delicious Dragon Boat Festival food, many traditions encompass the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. Read the Cantonese text (traditional and Jyutping) to learn more about the Dragon Boat Festival.




hai2 dyun1 ng5 zit3, jan4 jan4 dou1 wui5 sik6 zung2. zung2 hai6 jung6 coeng4 jing4 ge3 zuk1 jip6 waak6 ze2 lou4 wai5 jip6, zoeng1 no6 mai5 tong4 maai4 pui3 liu2 baau1 zyu3, jin4 hau6 zing1 suk6 lei4 sik6 ge3. zung2 ge3 hei2 jyun4 hai6 jan1 wai6 wat1 jyun4 tau4 gong1 zi6 zeon6, co2 gwok3 baak3 sing3 fei1 soeng4 soeng1 sam1, jau6 paa3 wat1 jyun4 ge3 si1 tai2 bei2 di1 jyu2 tung4 maai4 haa1 sik6 zo2, so2 ji5 zau6 jung6 zuk1 tung2 zong1 zo2 di1 mai5 sik6 dam2 jap6 heoi3 gong1 jap6 min6, hei1 mong6 zoeng1 di1 jyu2 tung4 maai4 haa1 wai3 baau2. hau6 lei4 zau6 maan6 maan1 jin5 bin3 sing4 jung6 seon2 pei4 waak6 ze2 zuk1 jip6 baau1 zo2 dam2 jap6 gong1 jap6 min6. dou3 zo2 jin6 doi6, zung2 jau5 hou2 do1 m4 tung4 zung2 leoi6, jau5 haam4 jau5 tim4. baau1 kut3 haam4 ge3 juk6 zung2, tong4 maai4 tim4 ge3 gaan2 seoi2 zung2.

dyun1 ng5 zit3 ge3 ling6 jat1 go3 zaap6 zuk6 zau6 hai6 paa4 lung4 zau1. keoi5 ge3 hei2 jyun4 le1 jik6 dou1 hai6 jan1 wai6 wat1 jyun4 tau4 gong1 zi6 zeon6, jyu1 si6 co2 gwok3 baak3 sing3 bat1 ting4 hai2 dou6 paa4 teng5 daa2 lau4 keoi5 ge3 si1 tai2. dou3 zo2 jin6 doi6 paa4 lung4 zau1 ji5 ging1 bin3 zo2 jat1 zung2 biu2 jin6 tyun4 deoi6 zing1 san4 ge3 wan6 dung6, ji4 ce2 mui5 nin4 dou1 geoi2 baan6 lung4 zau1 ging3 dou6; gan6 nin4 lei4 le1 gang3 gaa1 faat3 zin2 sing4 gwok3 zai3 coi3 si6, zung6 hai2 jat1 gau2 gau2 jat1 nin4 sing4 lap6 zo2 gwok3 zai3 lung4 zau1 lyun4 hap6 wui5. dou3 zo2 ji6 lin4 jat1 ji6 nin4 sap6 jat1 jyut6, ji5 ging1 jau5 cat1 sap6 sei3 go3 wui5 jyun4 gwok3, tung4 maai4 saam1 go3 wui5 jyun4 zi1 gaak3 sam2 hat6 zung1 ge3 gwok3 gaa1.

lung4 zau1 jau5 bit6 jyu1 ngoi6 gwok3 sing6 hang4 ge3 duk6 muk6 zau1 waak6 ze2 baat3 jan4 sik1 ge3 paa4 teng5, ji4 hai6 jat1 zung2 seoi1 jiu3 gang3 do1 mak6 kai3 gang3 do1 hei3 lik6 ge3 wan6 dung6. jat1 bun1 lung4 zau1 syun4 san1 daai6 koi3 sap6 ji6 mai5 coeng4, zoi3 zyu3 ji6 sap6 ji6 wai2 syun4 jyun4, jat1 wai2 co5 hai2 syun4 tau4 gik1 gu2 zan3 fan5 si6 hei3 ge3 gu2 sau2, tung4 maai4 jat1 wai2 co5 hai2 syun4 mei5 ge3 to5 sau2.

During the Dragon Boat Festival, people eat rice dumplings, which are also known as zong. Zong is glutinous rice and other ingredients wrapped in long bamboo or reed leaves and then steamed before eating. This practice originated from Qu Yuan’s suicide, because people from the State of Chu were worried that fish and shrimp would eat his body, so they threw rice-stuffed-bamboo tubes into the river, hoping to keep the fish and shrimp well fed. Later the exterior evolved into bamboo leaves. Nowadays, there are many kinds of salty and sweet zong, including savory meat-stuffed zong and sweet zong.

Another custom of the Dragon Boat Festival is rowing a Dragon Boat. This also originated from Qu Yuan’s suicide, as after his death the people from the State of Chu kept rowing out on the river to try to salvage his body. Nowadays, rowing dragon boats has became a sport that encourages teamwork, and dragon boat races are held annually. In recent years, it has even developed into an international competition, and the International Dragon Boat Federation was founded in 1991. As of November 2012, there are 74 countries or territories with membership, and three pending applications.

Dragon boats differs from canoes and rowboats, because they require more synchronization and strength from the rowers. A standard dragon boat hull is twelve meters long and carries twenty-two rowers, a drummer who sits in the front to boost morale, and a steersman at the tail.

4. Dragon Boat Festival in Stanley

Racing a Dragon Boat

Do you know where most people in Hong Kong celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival?

In Hong Kong, most people celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in Stanley. That’s because the largest and the most established Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships are held there. The Stanley Main Street also holds a festive carnival on that day.

5. Useful Vocabulary for the Dragon Boat Festival

Sweet Rice Dumplings

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for the Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong!

  • 端午節 (dyun1 ng5 zit3) — Dragon Boat Festival
  • 龍舟 (lung4 zau1) — dragon boat
  • 鹼水粽 (gaan2 seoi2 zung2) — sweet rice dumpling
  • 爬龍舟 (paa4 lung4 zau1) — row a dragon boat
  • 肉糉 (juk6 zung2) — rice dumpling stuffed with meat
  • 雄黃酒 (hung4 wong4 zau2) — realgar wine
  • 屈原 (wat1 jyun4) — Qu Yuan
  • 鑼鼓 (lo4 gu2) — gongs and drums
  • 糯米 (no6 mai5) — glutinous rice
  • 龍舟競渡 (lung4 zau1 ging3 dou6) — dragon boat race

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, check out our Cantonese Dragon Boat Festival vocabulary list. Here, you’ll find each of these words accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.


What do you think about Hong Kong’s Dragon Boat Festival? Let us know in the comments; we always love to hear from you!

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