Mid-Autumn Festival is the second important traditional festivals in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has all kinds of celebration events for this special festival. Besides lantern displays and lantern carnivals, there are different Fire Dragon Dance in Hong Kong every year : The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, The Victoria Park Fire Dragon Dance, The Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon Dance and Lee Tung Avenue LED Fire Dragon Fiesta. The first three are fire dragons with burning incense and the last one is actually a modern version of traditional fire dragon. Of all, the best is always the original one in Tai Hang.
More to Know
Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrations
Plan in advance and get to know where to enjoy all the Lantern Display, Lantern Carnivals and other festivities of Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival.
Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance Celebration
China’s Intangible Cultural Heritage
If you thought the Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration is only about lantern exhibition, carnivals and moon cakes, then you are about to miss another very unique and important celebration – Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, the one-of-a-kind spectacle.
Hong Kong is famous for her Dragon Dance and Lion Dance. However, only a few locals know that Hong Kong also has Fire Dragon Dance and fewer have ever watched themselves. Over a century ago, the Fire Dragon Dance saved lives of Tai Hang village from a deadly plague and then was kept by the villagers as a tradition.
It starts to be known in recent year since Hong Kong Tourism Board tried hard to promote this tradition. It has been listed as China’s Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2011. Every year during Mid-Autumn Festival, there will be three consecutive nights of celebration with Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance. In 2017, it extended to four days to let more people enjoy this event.
Why is Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance spectacular?
If you have watched Tai Hang Fire dragon Dance, you will agree that it is definitely the highlight of all the Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrations. Why? Let’s start with some numbers :
- History: 138 years (only suspended three years during Japanese Occupancy);
- Dragon length: 67 meters and 31 sections;
- Incense stick: over 24,000 burning incense sticks;
- Performers: around 300 strong men;
- Weight of dragon head: around 48 kilograms;
When dancing up and down, left and right, it generates fascinating light trails. From the head of dragon to its tail, it takes about half minute to run by you through the narrow streets of Tai Hang. 300 performers, from 16-year old to 80-year old, are people living in Tai Hang or once lived here. They work together and dance the heavy dragon in turns to ensure this annual event’s success.
What to expect from Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance?
Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance starts usually with some warm-up performances. Lanterns written with Chinese characters “Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance” passing along Wun Sha Street is to announce the start of dragon dance. Thousands of people are waiting on all the narrow streets and alleys of Tai Hang for the dragon. No one knows from which street the Fire Dragon Dance will start this year.
Accompanied with the roar of the drums and gongs, the fire Dragon is led by two large fire pearls. Two strong men twirl the two pearls up and down and create pretty light traces.
The fire dragon head weighs about 48kg and performances have to play it in turns.
The pearls are actually pomelos inserted with numerous incense sticks. It requires a lot of strength to twirl the pearl and the performers are usually young men.
The dragon body is also very heavy that the performers have to take shifts. Performers will shout out and ask the team mate to take over the dragon once they get tired.
The tail of dragon is also very heavy and just jump up and down.
Two times of Fire Dragon Dance each night
The complete celebrations have two times of Fire Dragon Dance. The fire dragon parades via Wun Sha Street, King Street, Sun Chun Street and Tung Lo Wan Road and returns to Wun Sha Street to replace the burned-out incense sticks. Each time lasts about one hour. Between two Fire Dragon Dance, you will experience how the incense is stuck onto the fire dragon’s head, body and tail as well as how to prepare the two pearls. The whole process of preparing new incense for second Fire Dragon Dance takes over 30 minutes.
While the performers are preparing the Fire Dragon for the second parade, drums and cymbals are crashing and banging. You can enjoy additional small performances like marching bands or small children dressed up in traditional costumes while waiting. Streets are filling with the sweet smell of incense and smoke and once the Fire Dragon is ready you will notice that the music and rhythm will pick up indicating that the Fire Dragon is on the move.
At the end of event, the dragon team will load the dragon on the truck to Incineration, representing the dragon returning to heaven. In the past, they used to let dragon return to sea in Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. However, due to environment protection, it has stopped.
Where is vantage spot to watch Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance?
Although the fire dragon will parade along many streets (see yellow area on the map), the best location for enjoying this event is along Wun Sha Street. Usually the special stage will be set up for special guests on the middle of the street.
History of Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
A typhoon, a python and a deadly plague
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance has over a century history. It all started in the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival in 1880, when a typhoon hit the village. At that time, Tai Hang was only a small Hakka village and the villagers were living a simple and peaceful life as farmers and fishermen. Along with typhoon came a giant python who started to swallow the villagers’ livestock. The villagers finally managed to kill the python. However, the next day, after the typhoon, the snake body mysteriously disappeared. Then a deadly plague spread through Tai Hang village and lots of villagers died.
Dance with Fire Dragon to save villagers
A Taoist said that the large python was the son of the Dragon King of the Ocean. The Ocean Dragon King came to spread the deadly plague for retaliation. The Ocean Dragon King had a strong opponent, the Fire Dragon. Thus, the only way to stop the plague was to perform the “Fire Dragon Dance” during the Mid-Autumn Festival for three continuous days. The disaster would be driven away by igniting firecrackers containing sulfur. The Fire Dragon was built and paraded through the streets of Tai Hang for three days and nights and the plague went away. From that day on, the tradition of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance was kept alive and is performed as a ritual every Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong.
Do You Know
As a very unique event, Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance always attract many citizens and photographers. Cameras, lens, tripods are piled up along the streets.
Be prepared that the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is very popular and that it will be very crowded. We would recommend to be there at least 30min to 1 hour in advance to get a better spot.
There will be two times Fire Dragon Dance every night. If you miss the first time Fire Dragon Dance, you still have chances to make it and watch the second round.
General Info and Details
October 3 – 6, 2017
8:15pm – 10:30pm (October 3-5) / 8:15pm – 10:00pm (October 6)
Tai Hang, Causeway Bay (along Lily Street, Ormsby Street to Tung Lo Wan Road)
How to Get to the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance?
By Subway: The most convenient way is to take MTR to Tin Hau station and exit through A1. Cross King’s Road and walk through Fire Dragon Path. You will find the lanterns and flags on the way leading you to Tai Hang.
Victoria Park Fire Dragon Dance
During Mid-Autumn Festival, Hong Kong Tourism Board always invites the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance team to Victoria Park to share this heritage tradition to public. Besides the lantern display, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance in Victoria Park is undoubtedly the highlight of Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration.
Victoria Park is only several blocks way from Tai Hang. The fire dragon usually arrives around 10:30pm and the ritual starts around 10:45pm.
Besides the Fire Dragon Dance, Victoria Park also holds the largest Lantern Carnival and Lantern Display in Hong Kong in Mid-Autumn Festival.
Do You Know
Due to limited space, the Victoria Park’ Fire Dragon Dance is not as wonderful as in Tai Hang. The fire dragon’s movement and the atmosphere also are less. If you would like to experience the original Hong Kong Fire Dragon Dance, you must visit Tai Hang.
The Fire Dragon of Pok Fu Lam Village
Tai Hang is not the only village with Fire Dragon Dance on the Mid-Autumn Festival. Pok Fu Lam Village, a 200-year village on south Hong Kong Island, also has fire dragon celebration during this festival. Although their history of fire dragon dance is not as long as Tai Hang, the tradition of Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon Dance has also over 100 year history.
Unlike the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon is only around 10-meter long and performed by 20 performers.
Route of Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon Dance
The ritual starts at the entrance of Pok Fu Lam Village around 6:30pm and will visit the Liling Divine Pagoda first, a 100-year old heritage building with goddess to protect villagers. Then the fire dragon will pass many main streets , Wai Chai (middle of village), Lung Chai (end of village), Choi Yuen (south of village) to bless the villagers. After around 3 hours, the fire dragon will return back to the entrance to replace the incense.
Then the fire dragon will walk along Wah Fu Road towards Waterfall Bay for traditional ritual. Usually the fire dragon will be released to the ocean, representing “Dragon back to the sea”. Due to environment protection, recent year the dragon will be handled on land after the traditional ritual. The complete event takes about 5 hours.
There are also many other traditional celebration during this time. The only difference is the length of fire dragon in Pok Fu Lam is only one third of the dragon in Tai Hang.
Where are vantage spots to watch Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon Dance?
The fire dragon will stop three times at the following locations for fire dragon dance.
- 7:00pm stop at Pok Fu Lam Village southbound bus station for dragon dance;
- 10:00pm stop at Pok Fu Lam Village southbound bus station for dragon dance;
- 10:45pm stop for dragon dance at Wah Lok House Wah Fu Estate on Wah Fu Road;
General Info and Details
October 4, 2017
6:30pm – 11:45pm
Along Pok Fu Lam Village and Waterfall Bay
How to Get to the Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon Dance?
By Subway: The most convenient way is to take MTR to Hong Kong University station and change to bus 4, 7, 40, 40M, 90B, 970 or 970X to Pok Fu Lam Village;
Or in Tsim Sha Tsui take bus 973 (Mody Road or Canton Road) to Pok Fu Lam Village;
Lee Tung Avenue Mid-Autumn Festival LED Fire Dragon Fiesta 2017
Lee Tung Avenue is another place you can enjoy the fire dragon dance. It is technically not the traditional fire dragon with burning incense. The Lee Tung Avenue showcases its own version of the show with lighted LED lights.
You can experience a 70-feet LED-lighted fire dragon – smoke-free and without worrying about the potential hazard of burning joss sticks. The modern version of the traditional fire dragon highlights Hong Kong’s tradition with modern technology. Like many parts and places of Hong Kong, it is juxtaposition of old and new.
General Info and Details
LED Fire Dragon Fiesta 2017
October 4 & 5, 2017
8:30pm – 9:30pm
Along Lee Tung Avenue
Other Hong Kong festival and traditional events