Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fiery Spirit of Hong Kong

Tonight my friend took me to watch something very Hong Kong to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

We had an early dinner and then took a taxi to Tai Hang Road which is near Victoria Park in Tin Hau.

The street already had barricades set up on either side and already started to fill up with mostly photographers. We took a place where we could lean against a railing and right at 6pm the police closed off the road.

So while we had a good spot before 6pm, that meant having to wait -- over two and a half hours -- for the show to start.

It's called Tai Hang Fire Dragon and it is a legend from 1880. At that time Tai Hang was a Hakka village and in that year the villagers saw a serpent in what is now Victoria Harbour. They could not find the serpent and soon afterwards, the villagers caught some kind of infection and some died.

One of the villagers had a dream or a vision that told him that he had to make a fire dragon out of incense and burn it for three days during the Mid-Autumn Festival. He did this and the infection disappeared.

Since then the tradition has continued and the long-time residents of Tai Hang organize this fire dragon event every year for three days.

The dragon is made of what is literally called jun ju chou - or "pearl reed" and then they stick incense in it. This year's mystical beast was 280 feet long which required some 100 people to carry it up and down the street.

But before the main event, there was a disorganized parade of little girls dressed up in traditional Chinese outfits carrying pink lotus lanterns with real candles burning in them. They were also accompanied by beauty pageant contestants who were trying to get more exposure. There was also a drumming team performing the traditional lion or dragon dance drumming and get this -- a Scottish bag piper band too. What they were doing there, kilts and all was a bit strange.

Finally just after 8:30pm the dragon finally appeared all lit up. There weren't as many incense sticks on it has I had imagined. However, when the dragon did get close to us, we could feel the heat from it.

They waved its tail like a wave and circled around the head and they set off firecrackers too. At one point the head and the rest of its long skinny body were separated, and later the tail too. Obviously it was hard work to carry the dragon's body as it was quite heavy. So at times we would clap and shout in appreciation.

Pretty soon it was over and thousands of people filed out on an orderly fashion.

It was very interesting to watch and I'm glad I saw a piece of Hong Kong history or legend I never knew about until today.

1 comment:

gung said...

should keep up with this type of folksy traditions. recently UNESCO declared cantonese opera a world cultural heritage sets a very good example.