24th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) After a three-year delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon will once again mesmerise spectators with its captivating dance during the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival. The fiery spectacle will take place over three consecutive nights, from 28th to 30th September, allowing citizens to witness the allure of this national intangible cultural heritage.
The performances will feature awe-inspiring scenes such as the renowned “fire dragon crossing the bridge” and the mesmerising “dragon coil,” providing an immersive experience of this traditional art form. In addition to the main fire dragon, a new addition to the festivities will be the debut of a smaller night glow dragon, performed by talented young individuals.
The creation of the fire dragon is a meticulous process carried out by the Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association each year. Measuring an impressive 67 meters in length, the dragon’s head and tail are constructed using rattan frames, while its body consists of ropes covered in thick layers of grass, securely fastened with iron wires. Allen Tong, the Chief Operating Officer of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, explained that the grass serves a purpose beyond aesthetics, as it can hold incense sticks in place, enhancing the dragon’s shape.
On the 14th day of the eighth lunar month, the fire dragon is ceremoniously moved to the Tai Hang Lin Fa Temple, where a worship ceremony is conducted in the Hakka dialect. Following the insertion of incense sticks, the fire dragon parades through the streets of Tai Hang, following a clockwise route. Tong emphasised that while in the past, the fire dragon was believed to ward off plagues, its purpose today is to bestow blessings of peace and good health upon everyone.
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, located on School Street in Tai Hang, officially opened its doors last October. The centre serves as a hub for sharing the story of the fire dragon, with the ground floor featuring an exhibition showcasing over 140 years of fire dragon culture. On the first floor, visitors can enjoy a Hakka-themed restaurant, while the second floor offers a multifunctional space for various workshops that provide insights into Hakka culture, including the art of making Hakka dumplings known as Cha Guo and fragrant sachets.
Allen Tong expressed his delight at the heritage centre’s popularity, attracting over 2,500 visitors per month, including overseas tourists, students, and members of diverse communities. He emphasised that since the fire dragon parade only takes place three nights a year, not everyone can witness it. However, with the establishment of the heritage centre, the essence of the culture and the parade can now be showcased every day of the year.
To further engage visitors and offer an immersive experience, the heritage centre plans to introduce a dragon ball workshop. Dragon balls play a crucial role in leading the fire dragon during the parade, and this workshop will allow visitors to appreciate the craftsmanship involved in creating these important elements.
The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre is a Grade 3 historic building, formerly a Confucian school dating back to the late Qing Dynasty. Revitalized through the Development Bureau’s Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme, it is currently managed by the Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association.
Commissioner for Heritage Ivanhoe Chang announced that the scheme, launched in 2008, has successfully revitalised 22 government-owned historic buildings. As part of the ongoing enhancements, non-profit making organisations (NPOs) will be allowed to partner with commercial organisations, ensuring sustainable management for the projects. Financial support for NPOs will also be increased, with one-off grants rising from a maximum of $5 million to $6 million, covering starting costs and operating deficits, if any, for the first two years of operation. Additionally, applications will be accepted in groups to expedite the approval process after the seventh batch is announced.
As the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, anticipation builds for the revival of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon, igniting the spirits of both locals and visitors alike.