Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

I have a new neighborhood in Hong Kong- Tai Hang! I wrote about it last year and hinted that I wanted to relocate, and over the summer, I did it. I found a cute, quirky, newly renovated apartment in an old Chinese walk-up building, which was really my dream. That's a different blog post for a different day, because right now I just want to share with you a cultural tradition from my new neighborhood that happened recently.

Entrance to my neighborhood all jazzed up in preparation

A few weeks ago was the Tai Hang Fire Dragon dance. Tai Hang is an old fishing village that goes back over 100 years, so it is a very tight knit community. Once a year the locals run up and down the streets 3 nights in a row with a 67 meter long dragon. The dragon runs at the crowd and then veers away at the last minute, it goes up in flames as they stab it with incense, and it dances to the beat of the massive drums following alongside.

The head of the dragon running right towards me in the crowd

Historically, the tradition began as a way to bring good fortune to the neighborhood. What was once a fishing village, and then a local automotive hub full of car shops, is now slowly being gentrified. I've already noticed a few car shops being replaced by oyster bars or cafes in the last two months since I moved in. By moving there, I know that I am contributing to this progression, but I hope to counterbalance that by supporting local businesses and promoting cultural traditions in the area!

Unfortunately a new rule states that if a real estate company can buy up 80% of the apartments in the building, the other 20% legally have to sell, which means that a lot of the cool older apartment blocks built back in the '60s are getting knocked down and replaced by sterile towers. I can't imagine the Fire Dragon dance happening in a neighborhood full of skyscrapers.

Only men from Tai Hang are allowed to participate-
unfortunately their numbers are dwindling

For such a big celebration with so many people crowding the streets to watch the Fire Dragon dance, I was surprised by how tame it was. In my mind I was picturing something like an Ecuadorian block party, a booze-infused, boisterous musical extravaganza. I think street parties in Asia lack the energy of their counterparts in Latin America. People sort of stood casually around watching the dragon, and once it had turned the corner, walked or jogged to keep up with it. There were no fistfights, boom boxes, dancing or cries of joy. Instead, it was just a bunch of very civilized people observing a piece of their heritage with much respect and nostalgia.


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