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Tai Hang Fire Dragon sparkles anew as declared national heritage

09/11/2011

The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Parade, one of the highlights of the annual Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, attracts tens of thousands of visitors this year after being included in the third national list of intangible cultural heritage in June. The spectacular three-day event launched tonight (11 September) is sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in association with the Tai Hang Resident’s Welfare Association.

Jockey Club Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges joined the Association’s Chairman Ho Choi-chiu, other officiating guests, and over 300 residents at the opening ceremony to showcase the spectacular 200-foot-long dragon before it started its parade through Tai Hang. Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges described this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival as a particularly joyous occasion, with the first Fire Dragon Dance since the Tai Hang ritual gained its heritage listing heralding an auspicious start to the new horse racing season.

“This extraordinary and colourful event has been staged every year for more than a century. I feel very honoured to be able to take part in this unique tradition and join Tai Hang residents in celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival,” he said. “The Club always attaches great importance to culture and heritage conservation in Hong Kong. We are delighted to play our part in keeping this historic event alive and sponsoring a series of public education workshops that will let more people appreciate this important example of Hong Kong's collective memory.”

The Jockey Club donated HK$190,000 to fund the Fire Dragon Parade as well as two workshops organised by the Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association and the Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage, to promote awareness of the tradition to about 300 people, including students from Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O, as well as other members of the public. Some participants even had a hand in the making of the Fire Dragon and learn about the history.

For more than a century, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Parade has been one of Hong Kong’s unique festive and cultural events.  It started in 1880 as an act to ward off a plague that broke out in Tai Hang Village.  Since then it has become customary to hold a Fire Dragon dance in Tai Hang and Victoria Park every year during the Mid-Autumn Festival period in order to drive away infectious diseases and bring good fortune to the residents.

The Dragon is 220 feet long and has a team of around 200 dancers, who are all present or former residents of Tai Hang. Constructed of “pearl grass” (珍珠草) and incense sticks, the Dragon consists of a head, body and tail and is preceded by two dancing Dragon Pearls (龍珠). It is accompanied by children carrying lanterns and adults with banners and drums.

Over the past years, the Club has been a staunch supporter of cultural preservation. In 2007, the Club’s Charities Trust made a donation to The Conservancy Association to set up the Centre for Heritage in Sai Ying Pun, which runs numerous community engagement and education programmes that have enabled tens of thousands of students and other participants to appreciate the preservation of cultural heritage in Hong Kong, including the Fire Dragon workshops.

In addition, the Club has attached great importance to heritage conservation, including the Central Police Station Revitalisation Project to conserve and revitalise the site and transform it into a centre of heritage, arts and leisure. The Club also provides financial support to many other cultural preservation projects organised by various groups, such as HULU Culture’s Hong Kong Jockey Club “Heritage x Art x Design Walk” Project, Hong Kong Memory Project, The Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation’s The Hong Kong Jockey Club Point-to-Point Site Specific Art Project, and St James’ Settlement’s Heritage Preservation and Rejuvenation Programme in Wan Chai District.


Picture 1:
Photos 1/2: Jockey Club Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges (centre) joins over 300 Tai Hang residents to showcase the 200-foot-long fire dragon at the opening ceremony.


Picture 2:


Picture 3:
The Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges (7th left), Executive Director, Charities, Douglas So (6th left), Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association Chairman Ho Choi-chiu (7th right), Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in HKSAR representative Liu Lin (centre), Wan Chai District Officer Angela Luk (6th right) and other guests.


Picture 4:
The Club also supports the Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association and Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage in organising two workshops for 300 people to raise awareness of such intangible heritage.