UK celebrates annual Dragon Boat Festival

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The moment the starting signal rang out at Salford Quays in Greater Manchester on Saturday, three dragon boats swiftly surged forward, with paddlers unleashing powerful strokes in sync with the pulsating beats set by drummers at the front of the boats, reported Xinhua.

As the boats drew closer to the finish line, the cheers, drumbeats and paddle splashes grew louder, echoing through the refreshing summer air.

Up to 40 amateur teams of students, companies, and local social entities like Manchester Museum competed in the race, which was part of this year's UK Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, an event that has gained popularity in the country and across Europe.

As the ninth edition, this year's event spans two days with an amateur race on the first day and a contest of professional teams on Sunday.

"It's lovely to have all these different generations, different people, different communities and organizations coming together. It was fantastic that they were doing it while also learning about other cultures," Esme Ward, director of Manchester Museum, told Xinhua after the race.

"Having a dragon boat race in Britain means a lot since it merges the British people's enthusiasm for boat rowing and Chinese Dragon Boat Festival traditions," Wang Mingchu, assistant professor in International Business at the University of Greenwich, said to Xinhua.

Dragon boats are typically decorated with Chinese dragon heads at the front of the boats and tails at the back. There are usually 8 to 20 paddlers sitting in pairs on a boat, along with a steersperson navigating the boat near the dragon tail and a drummer beating the rhythm against the head.

The drum beating has left a deep impression on many spectators, such as the family of five-year-old Logan from Manchester. They found out about the event online and decided to pop on to see what the race was like.

"It definitely seemed a lot more coordinated, a lot more intense with the drumbeats," said Tracey, Logan's mother.

Cameron Maxwell, a novice paddler with the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer team, told Xinhua that teamwork was a key element in the race that showcases the spirit of the sport.

"I was extremely impressed with how synchronized we were. A couple of times, we got a bit wet bashing each other, but overall, I thought we were pretty smooth about how we went about," Maxwell said.

Originating in China thousands of years ago, dragon boat race is one of many traditions in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival, which commemorates the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (about 340-278 BC) on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the Chinese calendar.

The festival, now a national holiday in China, falls on June 22 this year. People always enjoy Zongzi (sticky rice dumpling) during the day.

In the weekend's event here, local guests can also have a bite of Zongzi along with other traditional Chinese cuisines at some booths set up on-site.

"We have a full team of people who are new to Dragon Boat Festival," noted Arun Ghosh, CEO of Ghosh Medical Group, who took part in the boat race. "We're now experiencing China on a much bigger scale," he said.

In addition to the race and food, the event also featured a series of performances, including dragon dance, lion dance and chorus shows, many of which were presented jointly by Chinese and British performers.

"Promoting learning, understanding, and appreciation of cultures and diversity is really important for our self-development, and it widens our horizons, challenges how we might see things in the world. More importantly, it (the event) brings people together in a common aim around how we celebrate community and differences … in challenging circumstances," Paul Dennett, Salford's mayor, told Xinhua.

This year's event was organized by Xinhua Chinese Association in partnership with Salford City Council and British Dragon Boat Racing Association.

"By attracting more people to participate in the event, we hope we can benefit the exchanges between Chinese and British cultures and thus contribute to building a society that values and embraces cultural diversity," Yang Hanxin, chairman of Xinhua Chinese Association, said.


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