Sunday, 14 May 2017

LIKAS BAY: The Dragon Boat Festival

A Chinese festival but celebrated by all; with zeal! This is a unique Borneo heritage that you would not find any where else in Malaysia. Other races are also waiting for this celebration with enthusiasm; for example, the Bajau from Mengkabong, Tuaran. Considered to be once a seafaring people, they now seems to accept this festival as theirs. Every year hundreds of associations from within and outside North Borneo (Sabah) took part in this wonderful event by sending their best rowers to compete in this boat race.

During the Dragon Boat Festival, thousands of people both locals and foreigners thronged Likas Bay to watch the contenders beating their drums as to help the paddlers synchronize their strokes as well as motivating them to increase the boat speed. Not only were the paddlers motivated; even the spectators were mesmerized by the warlike rhythms of the beaten drums.

The North Borneo Dragon Boat Festival are held every year in conjunction with Duan Wu. Duan Wu is a traditional holiday originating in China; occurring near the summer solstice which is on the fifth month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Based on the solar Gregorian calendar, it will always fall on either May or June. It is just 10 minutes drive from the Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) city center.

What is the story behind Duan Wu? Well there was a legend in ancient China that says a member of the Chu royal house, Qu, was said to oppose his king alliance with a powerful state of Qin. Because of his opposition, the king had no choice but to exile Qu. During his exile, Qu wrote a lot of poetry. Then, 28 years later, Qin betrayed and captured Ying, the Chu capital. Saddened by this incident, Qu committed suicide by drowning himself. The local people who admired him, raced out in their boat trying to rescue him or at least retrieve his body. Today, not only the people of China celebrated this festival, but even non-Chinese far away from Qu ancient homeland are enjoying and sharing the celebration. Wow! Such immortality!

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