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My First Mid Autumn Festival in Hong Kong

Posted By Putro A. Harnowo, Saturday, 14 October 2017

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For me, the most baffling thing about Hong Kong is both its gentrification and preservation. Amidst the ubiquitous modern lifestyle, I can see many traditional rituals and landmarks almost everywhere, especially on Mid Autumn Festival where it is all about celebration, mooncake, lantern and dragon.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, corresponding to late September to early October. About three weeks after starting my study in Hong Kong Baptist University, I had a chance to see how glorious the celebration is. Among other things, Tai Hang Dragon Fire Dance is the most expected for Hong Kongers and tourists.

Starting on the 14th night, a “dragon” roamed around in Tai Hang area for three consecutive nights and was extended for one more night this year. The dragon has 67-metre long and 100 kg weight with over 70,000 sticks of burning incense and is carried by more than 300 men, former and current Tai Hang residents, of all ages. Women can also take part as drummer and narrator while children parade by holding the lantern. Basically, this is a collaborative three-hours performance of all member of the community.

Its origin can be traced in 1880 when Tai Hang, a village of farmer and fisherman then, struck by a plague. The superstitious ancient villagers made a dragon out of straw, put burning incense sticks, and paraded it to entire place as hoping to dispel the disease away. Surprisingly, it worked and turned into annual tradition afterwards. I can say, the story resembles its resident's character; conquering predicament for creating a blessing.

Photo: The gate of Tai Hang street embellished with lanterns and neon sign to ensure everyone noticed the venue. Visitor would not get any difficulty to find out since the entrance was shining brightly across the main street.

Photo: A woman took picture of Tai Hang street lanterns. The light would be on from dusk until dawn. The visitor started to flow in the vicinity at 7 pm while the show commenced at 8 pm.

Photo: Policemen blocked the road and secure the sidewalk with metal fence to maintain the flow in order. Wun Sha Street, where the Dragon Fire Dance took place, had been sterilized from any vehicle and visitor. Every turn was guarded by two to three personnel.

Photo: Several minutes before the show, the organizer coordinated with policeman as visitor started to gather near the main area to get the better view.

Photo: The show began with a set of percussion played on a cart wandering around the entire block of Wun Sha street. The sound was reverberating enough to attract the audiences for taking pictures and assembling in a large crowd.

Photo: While the dragon was being prepared and the percussion kept pounding, a group of litle girls in traditional red dress were waiting for their turn. Another group of men held lanterns with Tai Hang Dragon Fire written in Chinese and English letters on it.

Photo: Two women lit the candle inside lotus-shaped lanterns to be brought by the little girls.

Photo: Little girls in red traditional costume walked with lotus lantern in their hand to light the way of the dragon, followed with teenagers held star and round shaped lanterns.

Photo: A lotus lantern girls posed for pictures

Photo: The 67-metres dragon stretched out on the Wun Sha Street for grooming with thousands of burning incense sticks. Its smoke filled the cold night air.

Photo: The dragon swirled furiously along the way to cast out the bad lucks. Two men took turn holding up the head as kept it running. Weighted around 100 kg in total, this beast surely hard to control.

Photo: Close up of the dragon's head covered with smoke.

Photo: Among the orderly chaotic crowd, a man carried his son to watch the main attraction of Mid-Autumn Festival.

Photo: The fire dragon swirled and waved close to the audience, ran like a fiery beast hunting for the prey.

Photo: Flamed with burning incenses, the Dragon Fire chased two pearls across the street. Men took turn to hold the stake that support the head and the body while the drum beat kept playing in the background.

Photo: A man stood by near the dragon, waiting for his turn while watching his team mates dancing with the flamed incenses.

Photo: The bearer of dragon's tail tried his best to follow the unpredictable movement of his team mates.


Photo: Men inserted the burned incense sticks into dragon's body made of straws. They had to be careful to not harm their friends with fire.

Photo: After several trips of wandering around, the fire eventually went out. The dragon bearers distributed the incense sticks from the dragon's body to spectators. 


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Tags:  festival  hong kong  traditional 

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