Consider me a real Hong Kong local. I have not missed a single year of the Tin Hau Fire Dragon dance and the Victoria Park (Causeway Bay) Mid Autumn Lantern Festival since I arrived in Hong Kong (2009 ; 2010). In my humble foreign perspective there’s little that captures the local Hong Kong culture more than the crazy dragon parades. The Tin Hau Fire Dragon actually isn’t the only one, with the Tai Kok Tsui 500 feet dancing dragon pushing with a strong competition. I can’t help it, there’s something about a huge dragon that simply appeals to my deepest cultural appetite. Monotheistic religions, seriously – I ask you, why can’t we have something as cool as that? is there really no way of embedding a few dragons into that whole biblical story?
Want to get the feel of the action? boost your speakers to full volume, light some incent and watch my video in full-screen High-Definition:
Discover Hong Kong does their usual good work at promoting the event :
No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a dragon experience and now you can go one better – a dragon on fire! When the people of Tai Hang stopped a plague with a fire dragon dance in the 19th century, they also kicked off a tradition that is now part of China’s intangible cultural heritage. The event takes three days, 300 performers, 72,000 incense sticks and a 67-metre-long dragon studded with thousands of burning joss sticks. At night, all this produces an incredible spectacle of fire, smoke and dynamic fury as the dragon wends and dances through the backstreets of Tai Hang. Traditional, timeless yet vibrant — this is Hong Kong like you dreamed it would be.
You can also catch the Fire Dragon Dance at the Urban Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival at Victoria Park on 12 September.
The official Tai Hang Fire Dragon website has the story on how this came to be :
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon has its origin in 1880 . At that time , Tai Hang was only a small Hakka village and the villagers , most of them farmers and fishermen , Led a simple and peaceful life . The tale started when the villagers once killed a serpent in a stormy night , but in the next morning , the dead body of the serpent had disappeared . A few days later , a plague spread out in Tai Hang and many people died of infection . Meanwhile , a village elder saw Buddha one night in his dream and was told to perform a Fire Dragon Dance and to burn fire crackers in the Mid-Autumn Festival. The sulphur in the fire crackers drove away the disease and the villagers were saved. Since then , every year the Tai Hang residents would perform the Fire Dragon Dance for three nights in the Mid-Autumn Festival in memory of the incident. The Fire Dragon is altogether 220 feet long with its body divided into 32 segments , all of which are stuffed with straw and stuck full of incense sticks , So it is known as the “ Fire-Dragon ” .
Not too far away, in Victoria Park, somebody was going for a lantern world record :
This year, Hong Kong is pulling out all the stops with ‘Lee Kum Kee Lantern Wonderland’ in Victoria Park. Drop by to gape at the centrepiece of the 2011 celebrations — a lantern so big it is going for a Guinness World Record – and hang around to enjoy the other carnival capers in the park.
They have a terrific video on this lantern craziness :
Want to see how they built the whole thing? watch this video :
Hong Kong takes its world records seriously, mind you.
And on a smaller scale, a few other lantern exhibits:
This last one is especially wonderful, isn’t it? What could be more authentic HK than a shoe shining lantern?
If you’re wondering what the locals are doing if they’re not crowding together to sweat in Victoria Park, the lovely Tin Hau neighborhood offers a glimpse…
With the obvious cultural feel to it…
Happy Mid Autumn Festival, folks.
More on the Fire Dragon and the Mid-Autumn festivities here: