Hong Kong's Hidden Gems #4 -- Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre

Mid-Autumn Festival is a festival that is widely celebrated in China.  It gives families a reason to get together for dinner and enjoy some mooncakes under a full moon.  This year, the festival lines up nicely with National Day to give the working class some extra R&R.  For those visiting Hong Kong during this time, I highly recommend going to Tai Hang and check out their festivities.  

Tai Hang is a gem in itself, as it is a quiet corner next to Causeway Bay, Hong Kong's bustling commercial and shopping district.  The quiet neighbourhood is home to various specialty restaurants, offering cuisines from China and around the world.  There are also plenty of non-franchised premium coffee shops for locals and tourists alike.  In my eyes, Tai Hang is a sleepy child most of the year offering tranquillity to those wanting to escape from the buzz of Hong Kong.  

This quiet corner comes to life during Mid-Autumn however, as a series of celebrations take place.  The premier event is the Fire Dragon Dance! It is a unique cultural spectacle that combines elements of folklore, martial arts, and pyrotechnics. The Fire Dragon Dance,involves a long dragon made of straw and covered in burning incense sticks. The dragon is carried through the streets by a team of up to 300 skilled performers, creating a mesmerizing display of fire and smoke.  A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing the performance during the festival and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.  

Legend has it that over 100 years ago, a villager in Tai Hang killed a serpent which was the child of the dragon king.  The king was furious and unleashsed a deadly plague unto the villagers.  The village elder saw a vision of creating a giant model dragon and parading it around the village to appease the king.  As a result, the plague disappeared and the villagers continued the tradition to keep diseases away while inviting good fortune. The dragon is 67m long, constitutes 31 sections, and its head alone weighs 47kg requiring 8 to 10 people just to alternately twirl and carry through the streets.  In 2011, the fire dragon dance is declared a national intangible heritage.  

Historians believed the Fire Dragon Dance did wonders in defeating the plague.  For starters, the dragon was made of  rattan frame and pearl straws stuck with over thousands of burning incense.  Incense naturally had a cleansing effect on the air.  The firecrackers that were burnt alongside the dragon released sulfur, which provided a sanitizing agent for the streets.  At the end of the parade, villagers worked together to clean up the aftermath, essentially removing all garbage for the neighbourhood thereby stopping the proliferation of remaining germs and bacteria. 

This year, the event is held between the September 28 to 30th.  If you miss the actual parade, you can still visit the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, which is a petite exhibit opened in 2022 to showcase the tradition.  Be sure to check out the 12-minute video that runs hourly to learn more about the event and tradition.  There are also some nice souvenirs that good reason for you to part with your money.  My recommended time to spend there is about 30 to 45 minutes.  

If you are longing for more touristy spots after the heritage centre, there is also the Lin Fa Kung (Temple), just a stone's throw away.  The temple itself is a declared monument in Hong Kong and built around and on top of a lotus rock where the female goddess Guan Yin once supposedly appeared.  The building architecture is of particular interest and is worth a quick visit before or just after a meal or coffee in the neighbourhood.  

- PTS 


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