Darwin International Dragon Boat Festival 2023
Darwin NT 0800
Dragon Boat Festival
On Sunday 4 June 2023, City of Darwin will host the Dragon Boat Festival at the Darwin Waterfront as a free event for all members of the community.
The history of dragon boats is steeped in a rich fabric of ancient ceremony and ritual and can be traced back more than 2000 years. Modern dragon boat racing is a fast-paced team sport that fosters inclusivity, fun and sportspersonship, and has enjoyed healthy support since its first introduction in 1998 in Darwin.
Dragon boat racing demonstrations will run over the course of the day, showcasing a rare and unique cultural experience with the local Darwin community. The Dragon boat races will be run in the spirit of fun and festivity and not be held to international standards. Experienced teams from Darwin’s Sister Cities will also be participating in the races, facilitating deep cultural exchange connections between our cities.
A traditional dragon boat eye-dotting ceremony will take place at the beginning of the festival. In Chinese custom, the eye-dotting symbolises the awakening of the dragon and provides it with life, eyesight, taste, and power.
The festival’s program will also feature hands-on, interactive activities and cultural displays, including traditional performances, painting, paper cutting, mahjong, Chinese calligraphy and more to showcase our diverse and vibrant community here in Darwin.
- Australia China Friendship Society NT Branch
- Chopsticks competition
- Art and cultural exhibition
- Confucius Insititute, Charles Darwin University
- Chinese knot making workshop
- Chinese calligraphy
- Children's traditional Hanfu clothing exchange
- Dragon puppet making workshop
- Huff-and-puff ping pong
- City of Darwin
- Fun Bus
- NT Art Storms
- Sand card artwork workshops
- Tip Top Circus Entertainment
- Children's face-painting and balloon twisting
History of the dragon boat racing traditions
- The Legend of Qu Yuan
The Dragon Boat Festival, known as Tuen Ng, traditionally commemorates a heroic and tragic event which took place in ancient China more than 2000 years ago.
The government of the Kingdom of Chu was known as corrupt, and after jealous rivals falsely accused him of treason, a well-loved statesman, warrior, and poet named Qu Yuan, was banished. In despair and, perhaps as a final act of protest, he threw himself into the Mi Lo River and drowned.
The Chinese people have never forgotten this heroic act, and when fishermen raced their boats to recover his body before it could be devoured by fish (beating drums and throwing rice dumplings into the river to distract them), they founded a tradition that continues to this day.
Each year, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (in June), crews of competitors re-enact that frantic rush to save Qu Yuan, by powering long, narrow boats with the ferocious heads of dragons mounted on the prow through the water, to the frenzied, rhythmic beating of drums.
It is not known how the dragon boat prow came into being, but it is thought that over the years, they were added to ward off evil water spirits. It is thought that it arose because the combination of the 5th lunar numbers is thought to be a bad omen, and dragon boat races held at this time would ward off evil spirits; protect the people's health, and ensure a good crop each year.
Special foods are also eaten at this time of year, especially in Hong Kong, including replicas of the rice dumplings that the fishermen threw into the Milo River all those years ago in an attempt to save Qu Yuan.
- Eye Dotting Ceremony
Dragons in South East Asia are looked upon with great reverence and are worshipped, and Chinese Emperors of old referred to themselves as 'Dragons'.
Before the dragon boat races commence, a Taoist Priest will offer prayers to the spirits of the dragon boats. The priest then makes offerings of fruit, jasmine tea, alcohol, and rice. These offerings appease the spirits of the water and calm them in preparation for the racing ahead. If that were not done, legend has it that the Water Gods would clash with the Dragon spirits of the boats, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Also offered at this time are symbolic coins and banknotes from the Bank of Hell. The smoke from these notes goes to Heaven and appeases the Gods to ensure safety and good racing. He will also throw some notes onto the water for the Sea Gods. Having warded off evil spirits with his earlier prayers, the priest can now bring the dragon boats to life and make them strong for the racing ahead.
Finally, having successfully resuscitated the 'dragons' the priest offers thanks to Heaven and the Gods, paving the way for future successful races. The boats are now ready to do battle!
- Significance of the Five Colours
The five colours of the festival are traditionally cyan, white, red, black/blue and yellow. The five colour represents five directions and five elements of yin and yang in The Han Dynasty, and represent the best wishes for good luck and good health.
Cyan represents element of wood and the East.
Red is fire element and represents the South.
Yellow is earth and represent the Centre.
White is the element of gold and represents the West.
Black is the water element and represent the North.
- Modern Day Celebrations
To this day, there are many longstanding traditions of the dragon boat festival that are celebrated each year.
Typically, children are provided with new summer clothes.
A special ingredient, called Artemisia Argyi, is added to bathing water for blessing and good luck. Dried Artemisia Argyi is also hung up at the top of the door in many homes to prevent bad spirits coming to the house or family.
Five colour bracelets or braided egg nets (representing the five colours of the festival) are provided to children for longevity and good luck to dispel any bad luck or disease. The eggs are also boiled with special dragoon boat festival water.
Darwin International Trade Show
The Darwin International Trade Show will then be held at DoubleTree by Hilton Esplanade on Monday, 5 June 2023. This is a free event and open to the public. The Trade Show provides an opportunity for businesses and organisations to promote their services and products to international markets.
Securing a stall at the Darwin International Trade Show 2023 is ideal for businesses and organisations wishing to promote their products and services to international markets. Free stalls are being offered to all businesses and organisations from Darwin and its sister/friendship cities.
For more information visit the Discover Darwin website.
- Application for Volunteers
We’re calling for members of the community to express their interest in providing volunteering services in support of the Darwin International Dragon Boat Festival 2023.
Dragon Boat Event Partner