With summer in full swing, this year's series of Dragon Boat Festivals is underway today throughout coastal China; called Duan Wu Jie in Mandarin, they're normally held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Historically, this festival marked the beginning of summer and was celebrated to honor the gods in hopes of a good season. While Hong Kong is said to be the best place to go to take part in the festivities, each major coastal city on the mainland holds its own colorful and exciting races that are sure to delight any visitor to China.

Xiamen, in Fujian Province, is arguably the best place on the mainland to take part in the Dragon Boat Festival. In the hilly coastal city's Jimei District, crowds gather to cheer on the contestants in the Xiamen International Dragon Boat Race. Traditionally, small rice packets are thrown into the water during the races to appease the water gods and to ensure favorable weather for the summer season.

If you're in Shanghai for the festival, the most popular activity is eating zongzi, or glutinous rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves. Buy sweet or meat-filled zongzi in many locations around Shanghai during the festival. Day trips can be taken to nearby Suzhou or Hangzhou where races are held.

An easy train ride away from Beijing, Tianjin also holds dragon boat races along its major waterways. Afterwards, stop by Tianjin's Food Street to snack on some zongzi.

We at the China Guide can incorporate the Dragon Boat Festival into any China tour. Promising no shopping, only good local food, experienced guides, and unique itineraries, the China Guide can accommodate any traveler's needs. For more information, check www.thechinaguide.com or email book@thechinaguide.com to start planning your customized tour today.

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