Monday, February 26, 2024

Roaring Back to Life: HK’s Legendary Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance Returns – Witness the Revival of an Intangible Cultural Heritage with Over 140 Years of History

Hong Kong’s legendary Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance roars back to life this Mid-Autumn Festival, reigniting the flames of this revered ritual for the first time since 2019. Scheduled to take place on three consecutive nights from 28th to 30th September 2023, the flamboyant dance will feature more than 300 performers parading a majestic 67-metre-long dragon through the grid-like streets of the charming Tai Hang district.

This year’s event will feature a number of exciting new elements, including a special performance by next-generation dragon performers, a LED giant flower plaque with a dragon head near the entrance for photo opportunities, and an extended viewing zone to accommodate more spectators along Wun Sha Street and Tung Lo Wan Road. The history and significance of the event can also be discovered during the daytime at the recently opened Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, which provides a fascinating insight into the 143-year-old tradition.

The dragon’s intricate construction requires over a month of dedicated hard work by a team of skilled and experienced craftspeople, who create the dragon by hand using pearl straw, rattan and hemp rope. Comprising 32 segments, the body of the dragon is adorned with 12,000 illuminated incense sticks, with the head alone weighing 50 kilograms. This smoky, fiery spectacle is found uniquely in Hong Kong, making it a one-of-a-kind display.

Keeper of the Ancient Flame 

Originating over 140 years ago, the Fire Dragon Dance emerged as Tai Hang grappled with the hardships of plague within its farming and fishing communities. In an inspirational dream, a village elder was instructed to create a dragon adorned with smoldering incense sticks and parade it through the streets to save the village.

Since then, the ritual has been performed every year with its distinctive character and has established itself as one of Hong Kong’s most important cultural celebrations, with the dance included on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“We are thrilled that the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is returning this season after a four-year hiatus, and look forward to welcoming local and global visitors to join the celebrations. The dance is more than just a performance – it is an inseparable part of our lives and we are proud that traditions like ours will always live on as we pass the legacy on to the next generation,” shares Cheung Kwok Ho, Almon, Acting Commander in Chief of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance and a Tai Hang local.

A Hub for Celebration and Preservation

Adding to the festivities is the recently opened Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, housed in a Grade 3 Historic Building at 12 School Street. The centre holds exhibitions and features a restaurant offering dishes inspired by the delectable cuisine of the Hakka community, who were the original settlers of Tai Hang.

“The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre is a celebration of the excitement of the Fire Dragon dance, and provides fascinating insight into the history, traditions and intangible cultural heritage of the dance itself as well as Hakka culture,” says Vice Chairman Anthea Lo. “The Centre is housed in a historic building that dates back to the late 1940s, and is a great example of urban revitalisation that serves as a living link between the historical traditions of the fire dragon dance and the local community of today.”

The City’s Enchanting Nighttime Spectacular

In addition to the Fire Dragon Dance, Hong Kong boasts an array of festive nighttime events that are not to be missed this Mid-Autumn Festival. The city will be illuminated by hundreds of lanterns festooning the city, as families gather at the glittering harbourfront and at parks adorned with dazzling decorations and lighting displays to enjoy the glow of the moon and indulge in festive mooncakes. Hong Kong welcomes all to come and immerse in the enchanting atmosphere of the Mid-Autumn Festival.



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