I am writing this post now right after watching the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance earlier this evening. The first time I participated in the festival (as a spectator) was in 2014. I wrote a guest post about it for another blogger here after that. This time, I returned to the same venue on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival to take more notes and more photos to share with you.
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is on display for three nights in a row, starting from 14 September 2016, spreading across the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. If you are visiting or if you are living in Hong Kong but have never attended, I would highly recommend you join this local celebration. It is recognized as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritages in Hong Kong.
Legend of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
The legend is that in the 19th century a typhoon slammed into the mainly Hakka fishing and farming village of Tai Hang. A few days before the Mid-Autumn Festival the villagers discovered a python which ate their livestock. They captured it but somehow it disappeared the next day. Then a plague wreaked havoc in the village. With all the bad luck, one of the villagers dreamt one night that a Buddha instructed the villagers to stage a fire dragon dance for three days and nights during the upcoming festival to stop the chaos. The villages made a huge dragon out of straws and covered it with lit incense sticks. Accompanied by drummers and erupting firecrackers, they danced for three days and nights, and the plague disappeared. The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance continued to this modern day and is still being performed over the Mid-Autumn Festival.
You can still catch the Fire Dragon Dance over the next 2 days. The performance is scheduled to start around 8.15pm but you need to arrive at least 1 hour earlier in order to get a good spot! Based on both my experiences, the actual Fire Dragon Dance won’t start until 9pm (but don’t take my word! Come early!).
The main frame of the dragon is made from straws (珍珠草) with over 70,000 incense lit and stuck into the straws. The head of the Dragon is about 48kg and the body consists of 32 sections. The whole Dragon is 67 metres long. With that kind of mass and weight, it is no wonder there are over 300 performers involved.
Preparation of the Fire Dragon is a dangerous and painful process. It takes about an hour to create the fire in the Dragon. After that, the dancing starts.
There is a specific route which the Fire Dragon dances, you won’t miss it because there will be police cordoning off the areas. Like I mentioned earlier, unless you come early to book a spot, you will need to meander your way through the sea of people to get a good view and photographs of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon. People even bring their own stools and ladders!
The Dragon will take a break from the dancing after about 45 minutes to change out the incense. We learnt from the locals that we can take those burnt out incense sticks (given out by the performers), pray and make a wish! Mine are now in my bag 🙂
After the second round of incense had been placed on the Dragon, the dancing continued until approximately 11pm.
There are restaurants and dessert shops littered inside and around Tai Hang so you can choose to come here for an early dinner before the Dragon Dance or just hang around thereafter. If you are looking for more things to do after that, walk to Victoria Park for the annual Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival (only available on 15th September).
Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
When: 14 – 16 September 2016
Time: 8.15pm – 10.30pm 14-15 September 2016, 8.15pm – 10.00pm 16 September 2016
Admission: Free (it’s on the streets!)
Happy Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival everyone 中秋节快乐!