When talking about Mid-Autumn Festival, you perhaps will think about the lantern exhibition, or the moon cakes. Do you know that Hong Kong also has 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. Ever a fewer have ever watched the Fire Dragon Dance performance themselves. This local cultural tradition is listed onto China’s third national list of intangible cultural heritage.
Story about Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance Tradition
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance has an over 100 years old tradition. It all started in 1880, when Tai Hang was only a small Hakka village. The majority of villages led a simple and peaceful life as farmers and fishermen, until a typhoon hit the small village before the annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. If this wouldn’t be enough to cope with a giant python entered the small Hakka village and ate the villagers’ livestock.
The villagers managed to kill the giant python, but the body of the snake mysteriously disappeared the next day after the typhoon and a deadly plague spread through the town of Tai Hang.
After the death of some villagers, a Taoist said that the large python was the son of the Dragon King of the Ocean. The Ocean/Sea Dragon King came to revenge the death of his son and spread the deadly plague. The only way to save the village was by the Fire Dragon who is the strong opponent of the Ocean Dragon King. So, 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 born, kept alive and is performed as a ritual every Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong and is nowadays one of China’s official intangible cultural heritage.
Why is Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance Spectacular ?
Can you imagine a 67-meter-long dragon, made of over 70,000 sticks of incense and played by 300 performers ? How long is it ? From the head of dragon to its tail, it takes about half minute to walk by you through the narrow streets of Tai Hang.
Before the Fire Dragon Dance, there will be other warm-up performances to announce that the Fire Dragon Dance is about to start.
Besides Fire Dragon Dance, the whole celebration will be full of elements for Mid-Autumn Festival.
Watch out for the two large fire pearls (which are actually pomelos with numerous sticks of incense) twirled by two young men creating a pearl like shining.
The Fire Dragon follows the two pearls.
The dragon is very heavy that the performers have to take shifts while performing the dragon dance.
The annual Fire Dragon Dance always attract many photographers. Cameras, lens, tripods are piled up along the streets.
As a very unique event, Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance always attract many citizens and photographers. 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 30min to 1 hour in advance to get a better spot.
The complete celebrations will last 3-4 hours. You can experience how the Fire Dragon is built up, incense is lit and stuck onto the fire dragon’s head, body and tail as well as the two pearls.
While the villagers are preparing the Fire Dragon, drums and cymbals are crashing and banging. During the Fire Dragon Dance performances there are additional small performances like marching bands or small children dressed up in traditional costumes. 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.
More Info and Details
September 7 – 9, 2014
7:30pm – 10:30pm
Tai Hang, Causeway Bay (along Lily Street, Ormsby Street to Tung Lo Wan Road)
How to Get to the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance 2014?
By Subway: The most convenient way is to take MTR to Tin Hau station and Exit through A1.