Bring your whole family down to the Bedok Reservoir, a quick 20-minute taxi ride east from the city, and watch the annual Singapore Dragon Boat Racing Festival. While here, you’ll catch dragon-boating crews from all corners of the world compete for honours in this prestigious competition. Dragon boat teams consist of 22 able-bodied members who furiously pit their rowing skills against one another in search for the ultimate glory.
It‘s a sport that has its roots in ancient China, and like numerous ancient Asian sports, dragon boat racing also has a rich and mystifying heritage. Its origins begin with the death of the great poet Qu Yuan, who lived in the Chinese kingdom of Chu. An incorruptible Minister of State, Qu Yuan apparently became so upset with the acts of corruption within his government that he threw himself into the Mei Lo River in despair.
The rowing action of the dragon-boaters thus symbolise the desperate attempts of the village fishermen at beating their oars on the water to drive away man-eating fish as they tried to rescue him. While the fishermen were not able to save Qu Yuan, the tradition of throwing cooked rice dumplings (also known as ”ba chang”) wrapped in silk or banana leaves to appease the spirits of the river continues in today’s festival activities.
Today, dragon boat racing is a more cheerful spectacle. Show your support and cheer as the beautifully decorated boats splash and race across the surface of the water, and witness a whole range of ancient rites that are still performed here, including the showering of the dragon head of the boat before each race.
Dragon Boat Racing is a must for all sports fans, as it is a competitive, vigorous sport with lots of action, thrills and spills; and is just as ideal for great day full of wholesome family fun and entertainment. What’s more, dragon boat racing, with its fearsome drumbeats, mesmerising chants and intense camaraderie is also a joy to watch and savour.
The Kallang River just outside the Central Business District is another venue where you can take in dragon boat racing. Here, various dragon boat racing clubs have practices and competitive sessions during the weekends, and it’s a perfect place if you want to give the sport a go and get some hands-on practice.