NYU Shanghai Joins Local Dragon Boat Festival Celebrations

dragon boat race
Jun 29 2023

dragon boat festival

For the first time in NYU Shanghai history, over 50 faculty, students, and staff members experienced China’s traditional Dragon Boat Festival (Duan Wu Jie 端午节) as part of a local cultural event. Sporting NYU Shanghai violet caps and shirts, they joined the 10th Shanghai Folk Culture Festival in Sanlin Old Town, a neighborhood close to the New Bund Campus.


making zongzi with locals

Local community members welcomed them to the scenic old street where they spent the morning learning how to hand-wrap zongzi, traditional glutinous rice dumplings eaten on the holiday.


close up of zongzi making

Zongzi-wrapping tip: Layer two bamboo leaves to create an X shape with the smooth side up, and form a cone in the middle. Make sure there’s no opening at the tip!


local vendors present their goods: a sanlin yellow melon, a basket of zongzi, and a basket of eggs

Summertime is the peak season for the sweet “Sanlin yellow melon,” a native species to Sanlin Old Town. Just as rice dumplings are a tradition for Dragon Boat Festival, a basket of eggs individually woven with multicolored nets symbolizes goodwill and safety during the holiday.


dragon dance

Leading the dragon dance!


learning how to weave on a loom

NYU Shanghai community members also learned about Sanlin Old Town’s intangible cultural heritage, including how tapestry looms are used to weave and create fabric.



learning dragon boat paddling techniques

A team of novice rowers from NYU Shanghai suited up in life vests and grabbed up paddles for a crash course in dragon boat racing.



Dragon boat racing in the river

After a bit of paddling practice, NYU Shanghai teammates joined a friendly dragon boat race, cheered on by friends and local spectators. Recognize any familiar faces?


dragon boat rowing takes teamwork

They learned an important key to dragon boat racing–teamwork. Paddlers have to move at the same time, and every stroke should follow the lead of the drummer seated at the front of the boat.


Two photos: A close up of people laughing as they row the dragon boat and a photo of two dragon boats racing each other

NYU Shanghai values being ‘in and of the city,’ where learning happens beyond the classroom walls and meaningful exchanges occur through interactions with the city and its people. Sometimes, all you need is to paddle a little out of your comfort zone.