The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

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Every year the people of Hong Kong celebrate the end of the fall harvest by holding a Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival.  During this time, people eat mooncakes, carry lanterns, burn incense, and perform Fire Dragon dances.

The Fire Dragon Dance was the the most exciting event that I saw when I attented the Festival in September 2012.  The Fire Dragon Dance in Hong Kong began over 130 years ago.  According to the Hong Kong tourism site, the purpose of the Fire Dragon Dance is to:

“…[Commemorate] a series of mishaps that befell Tai Hang in 1880 culminating in a plague breaking out in the village. Appearing in the dream of a village elder, Buddha instructed the villagers to light firecrackers and perform a fire dragon dance for three days and nights during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Sulphur from the firecrackers dispelled the plague and the ritual has been repeated annually ever since. In 2011, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance was successfully included into China’s third national intangible cultural heritage list.”

The site also notes that China has listed the Dance as one of the nation’s three “intangible cultural heritages”.

The Fire Dragon Dance is a visually stimulating experience definitely worth seeing if you are in Hong Kong during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The Dragon itself is made of wood and is lined with hundreds of joss sticks, which are burned for religious worship.  The fire emanating from these sticks forms a cloud of smoke on the streets, giving the slight illusion that a real, fire-breathing dragon is in front of you.

Carrying the Dragon requires about 40 to 50 men, who frantically zig-zag up and down the street with the Dragon about three or four times.  What is most impressive is how fast the Dragon carriers move considering the length of the Dragon and the coordination required to maneuver it without tripping.

Depending on scheduling, it is best to see the Fire Dragon Dance on the streets of Tai Hang after visiting the lantern festival, which is also worth attending.  The locations of both are conveniently close to each other.  There were at least three  Dragon performances when I went, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.

For more information about the Fire Dragon Dance, lantern festival, or any information regarding the Mid-Autumn Festival, please visit DiscoverHongKong.com .  It is Hong Kong’s very well-designed, vibrant tourism site that clearly and cleverly lists upcoming events and tourist sites by categories.

TIP: There is a lot of waiting before the Fire Dragon Dance begins.  I remember waiting for over 30 minutes for it to begin.  During that time, people carrying signs and “lotus blossom girls” carrying lanterns march up and down the street.  There was also a psychedelic-looking mini-car (or hand-drawn cart) that was driven at the beginning and end of the event.  If you want to get a good look at the Dragon or want to get some pictures you can keep walking down the street, where the crowd eventually thins out.  The Dragon goes far down the road, so you will definitely get a chance to see it wherever you are standing.

 

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