TAI HANG FIRE DRAGON, Hong Kong (Part 1 of 2)
Every year during the Mid Autumn Festival, three consecutive nights of fire dragon dance illuminates the streets of Tai Hang, a residential neighborhood near the shopping and entertainment district of Causeway Bay. For 136 years, the fire dragon dance has been an annual local ritual since 1880, originating at a time when Tai Hang was a Hakka fishing village. Local legend has it that there was a year when Tai Hang was hit by typhoon and plague. In order to tackle the plague, a soothsayer suggested to organize the fire dragon dance for three nights during the Mid Autumn Festival. The villagers did what was told. After the dance, the plague miraculously receded. Since then, the fire dragon dance has continued year after year into modern days, and gradually evolved into a renowned event organized by the Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association, attracting spectators from all over the city.
The fire dragon dance is mainly performed on Wun Sha Street (the main street in Tai Hang), and paraded through a number of streets and lanes in the neighborhood, including Lily Street where the historical Lily Temple (Lin Fa Kung -蓮花宮) is located.
Back on Wun Sha Street where the centre stage of the dance is held, different groups of performers in traditional costumes gather in unique formations for the various scenes in the fire dragon dance.
Dance performers include local children and elderly.
The main performers are undoubtedly the hundreds of Tai Hang boys, who hold up the 67m dragon.
Made of 32 segments of dried weed and burning incenses, the fire dragon presents a rare glimpse of authentic heritage in the contemporary urban context of Hong Kong.
Leading by the two dragon balls, one of the main focus of the fire dragon dance is the dragon head.
Led by the dragon head, the dance performs throughout the upper and lower sections of Wun Sha Street for over an hour.
Dragon dancers run up and down the 200m+ Wun Sha Street, rhythmically swinging the dragon body under the beat of the Chinese drum.
The dragon dance is a collective endeavour that involves sweat and muscles of Tai Hang boys.
While the dancers parade the dragon, hundreds of spectators and photographers gather along Wun Sha Street competing for a good spot.
Towards the end of the dance, performers carry the dragon back to the mouth of Wun Sha Street, where they perform the dragon coil one last time.
The dancers gradually move the dragon body to form a circular coil, symbolizing unity and harmony of the community.
The entire dragon dance includes a combination of quick and slow moves. Under moments of quick drum beats, the fire dragon appears dancing up and down in mid air.
The rhythmic dragon dance is directed by the Traditional Chinese drum music squad.
Before the end of the dance, all performers, including the children in traditional costumes, parade through Wun Sha Street once again greeting farewell to the spectators.
After the farewell greetings, the dancers perform a few minutes of “encore” performance.
At the end, dancers pull out the incenses from the back of the dragon and give them out to spectators as souvenirs.