Video shows golden dragon boat formation in southern China, not India

A video of illuminated boats sailing in formation along a winding river has been viewed tens of thousands of times in false social media posts that claim it was filmed during a festival in the south Indian state of Kerala. The clip was in fact taken in southern China in May 2022 and shows a "dragon boat" formation made up of 80 rafts as part of a move to encourage tourism in the region, according to Chinese state media reports.

The clip was shared here on Twitter on November 8, 2022, where it has been viewed more than 28,000 times.

It shows a fleet of lit-up boats with a dragon head winding along a river at night.

The video's caption reads: "WHAT AN AMAZING SIGHT Deepotsavam (festival of light) in the river with 240 boats in Kerala."

Screenshot of the false Twitter post, Taken on November 9, 2022

The clip circulated as India's southern region celebrated Deepotsavam, or festival of light, in early November.

It was also shared alongside a similar false claim on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube here and here.

In reality, the video shows a formation of rafts on the Yulong river in China's autonomous Guangxi region.

Combined Google reverse image and keyword searches found a similar video posted on July 1, 2022 on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

The simplified Chinese caption reads: "Tonight, 'the dragon's tour' will return to Yulong river for three days. If you miss it you will have to wait until next year!"

The video in the false posts features the same aerial view of the dragon boat as it winds its way along the river but has been digitally slowed down and lengthened by duplicating the clip.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the altered video (left) and the one posted on Douyin (right):

Screenshot comparison of the altered video (left) and the one posted to Douyin (right)

The same user repeatedly posted other similar videos showing the same dragon boat fleet between May 19, 2022 and October 1, 2022.

Further keyword searches found state media reports that stated the event was hosted by Baisha town in Yangshuo County -- where the Yulong river passes through -- twice in 2022.

State broadcaster China National Radio reported on May 21 that the 700 metre-long "golden dragon" at the event on May 19 was made up of 80 rafts. It published similar photos from the scene here.

Chinese state media agency Xinhua reported that the May 19 event was held to "increase the reputation of the Yulong river tourism area".

Xinhua also reported on the dragon boat formation when it was sailed along the Yulong river again in July and published a photo showing a similar scene.