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Dragon Boat Festival celebrated in Australian capital with demonstration of Chinese culture

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The dragon boats were racing and people queued to buy traditional Chinese rice dish zongzi. The scene looked similar to what happened across China annually, except for the foreign faces and winter backdrop in the Southern Hemisphere.

On Sunday, a sunny day good for outdoor events, celebrations for the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival were held by the Chinese community beside Lake Burley Griffin in the Australian capital Canberra.

Hundreds of people gathered to enjoy performances including songs, music, dances and Taichi, and try different snacks.

Jola Samoc, who arrived with her husband and seven-year-old son, queued for candy floss.

"I've lived in Canberra most of my life, and it's the first time I made it to the festival," she said, beaming. "I knew there's gonna be lion dancing and dragon boats, and that was the main reason why I came out."

Francisca Cascillo just bought a big zongzi to share with her partner and daughter. She told Xinhua it was the first time she joined in celebrations of the Dragon Boat Festival.

"This morning we saw it and we got really excited," she said. "You can see the boat on the lake, you can eat the food, you can see some dances and you really get to learn a little bit more of the culture. So I think it is really good."

According to John Corcoran, President of Dragon Boat ACT (Australian Capital Territory), it's also the first time that the organization has participated in the festival. "I was asked to come along to see if we could provide some demonstration racing. And we're very happy to do it because it's a good community day, and we'd like to take every opportunity to promote dragon boating."

Corcoran joined the sport about 12 years ago, when he got to know about its connection with the festival as well as its origin. "It relates back to the legend of a government adviser during China's Warring (States) Period," he said.

"The legend has it that he gave some advice to the emperor, but the emperor didn't like his advice and exiled him. Later he proved that the advice he gave was correct, but because what he foretold would happen had happened, he was so sad (that)... he threw himself into the river and drowned. So the villagers would throw rice into the river every year to appease the spirit. That's how dragon boating was born."

Visitors were invited on Sunday to sit in two boats on the shore to get a feeling of the sport, and the Dragon Boat ACT had demonstration racing.

Rebekah O'Meagher, from the Griffins Dragon boat club, just disembarked after finishing racing. She said that she enjoyed the festival, and looked forward to going around and having a look at the displays at the stalls.

According to the organizer, there were 18 stalls at the festival, many of which showcasing Chinese culture. Some children learned how to wrap zongzi with colorful paper, and some were attracted to try Chinese calligraphy at the stall by the Australian School of Contemporary Chinese.

Zhang Zhenliang was a teacher from the school. "We are here to promote the Chinese culture, so that the descendants of overseas Chinese could inherit the cultural legacy, and Australian locals learn more about the essence of our culture," he said.

"People here are interested in our culture," he added. "That makes me feel proud as a Chinese."

The Chinese Embassy in Australia also had a stall at the festival, where there were books, paper-cutting artworks, miniature kites, clay and wooden sculptures, etc.

Song Yanqun, minister-counselor for culture at the embassy, said it was a large-scale event after the COVID-19 pandemic in Canberra held by the local community to celebrate a traditional Chinese festival.

"We have many visitors at our stall," he said. "It is our aim to take the festival as a platform to have more people understand our culture."

"Australia has a multi-cultural society, where the Chinese groups made a great contribution," he added. "By showcasing our culture, we would like to acknowledge the contribution of the Chinese groups, and boost friendship between Chinese and Australian people."