In the 19th century, the people of Tai Hang began performing a dragon dance to stop a run of bad luck afflicting their village. More than a century later, their village has been all but swallowed up by Hong Kong’s fast-growing city. But the dragon keeps on dancing. It has even danced its way onto China’s third national list of intangible cultural heritage.
All this started a few days before the Mid-Autumn Festival, sometime around 100 years ago. First a typhoon slammed into the fishing and farming community of Tai Hang. This was followed by a plague, and then when a python ate the villagers’ livestock, they said enough was enough. A soothsayer decreed the only way to stop the chaos was to stage a fire dance for three days and nights during the upcoming festival. The villagers made a huge dragon from straw and covered it with incense sticks, which they then lit. Accompanied by drummers and erupting firecrackers, they did what they were told and danced for three days and three nights – and the plague disappeared.
It takes nearly 300 performers and over 70,000 incense sticks to put on a three-day performance with a 67-metre dragon, which consists of 32 sections and whose head alone weighs 48kg. It is led by men holding up two ‘pearls’, or pomelos with numerous incense sticks inserted into them.
Tai Hang may no longer be a village, but its locals still recreate the fiery ancient ritual to this day with a whopping dragon that is not to be taken lightly! The commemorative performance wends its way in fire, smoke and festive fury through the backstreets of Tai Hang over three moon-fuelled days.