Dragon Boat Race builds bridge across Straits

The 2022 Cross-Straits Dragon Boat Race started on Thursday in Xiamen, Fujian province, with the two-day event attracting people from different age groups, including those from Taiwan who are studying or working in Fujian.

As one of the most important traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival, dragon boat racing is extremely popular among people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, who have a shared culture.

At the Dragon Boat Pond in Xiamen’s Jimei district, 24 dragon boat teams from the mainland and 17 from Taiwan competed on Thursday in a 300-meter preliminary race and a dragon boat tug of war.

The event’s opening ceremony, the traditional ritual of “eye-dotting”, and the finals and prize-giving ceremony of the 300-meter race will take place on the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on Friday.

It’s believed that dotting the eyes of dragon boats can actually “awaken” the awe-inspiring dragons, with auspicious implications, and this should be repeated each year before a race.

Chen Sing-long, a 21-year-old student from New Taipei City, Taiwan, said he was very excited to take part in this year’s event, as “it’s my first time to paddle a dragon boat”.

The sophomore from the male dragon boat team of students from Fuzhou University in Fujian said he had “made new friends and learned that teamwork is strength with my personal experience in the race”.

He only started practicing dragon boat paddling a month ago, but is now pursuing it with great interest.

Since his childhood, he has watched dragon boat races with his parents on television and developed a fascination for the traditional folk custom.

He said that people from the mainland and Taiwan are one family and share the same traditions and culture of the Dragon Boat Festival.

“I’m having great fun, although it’s a tiring sport,” said Chen Chunyu, 20, a sophomore from the female dragon boat team of Huaqiao University in Fujian.

She is from Kaohsiung in Taiwan, where the local people are very enthusiastic about dragon boat racing. Her elder brother used to be a member of his university’s dragon boat team, so this also inspired her to join this year’s event.

In 2010, dragon boat racing debuted as an official Asian Games sport in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. A year later, it was added to China’s list of National Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“The large-scale race is a good opportunity for all dragon boat paddlers, who are eager to learn from each other,” said Zhang Yi, a senior dragon boat coach from Jimei University in Xiamen. The university offers optional courses in dragon boat paddling and kayaking.

He said that dragon boat teams from both sides of the Straits often join races together.

Colorful cultural activities are also held during the event, including a cross-Straits forum on the culture of the Dragon Boat Festival.

The 2022 Cross-Straits Dragon Boat Race is co-organized by the General Administration of Sport of China, China Movie Channel, the Dragon Boat Association, Fujian Provincial Bureau of Sports and the Xiamen government.

People can watch the sporting events and activities via livestreaming on China’s major media outlets.

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