You see them at dragon boat races and during the Dumpling Festival too – long, sleek water vessels with a painted dragon head helming the front of the boat.
These dragon boats, which can seat up to 22 people, are ubiquitous to the Chinese culture of dragon boat racing. Today, dragon boat racing is a sport that is taken up by many teams and companies too.
But who are the ones behind the making of these boats that have become a fixture in our waterways today?
Meet Uncle Meng, the only dragon boat builder from Singapore, who works at a boat-building company called Seagull. The company, which is under Kim Tuck Huat Boat Builder, builds speedboats, kayaks and also dragon boats.
Meng has been making dragon boats for more than 30 years. Working from a factory based in Johor, Meng puts his talent at drawing to good use, by breathing life into his dragon boats.
“I used to be a jack of all trades. Construction, car repairs and what else? I can’t remember. I used to do many things. In the end, I came here to make dragon boats and small speed boats.
“I did quite well in art while schooling and was talented at drawing,” laughed Meng.
He added that he would go through various magazines and photographs to draw inspirations for his colour schemes. Sometimes, he would recreate them. Other times, he would come up with his own.
Making a dragon boat is not all about drawing and colouring though. Meng will think about the boat’s design, how well it can carry people and how much weight it can hold.
“I have to know all these things. It takes a week to make a dragon boat from scratch. This takes patience, without patience you wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.
“When people find my dragon boats flawless, that’s when I feel the greatest sense of accomplishment. I’ve made a successful product,” said Meng.
The boats made by Meng will be used for the upcoming DBS Marina Regatta held from 1-4 June at Marina Bay Sands.