Fire Dragon Leads Revitalisation Efforts

After a three-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon will once again dance during the Mid-Autumn Festival for three consecutive nights between September 28 to 30.


Citizens can enjoy spectacular scenes such as the "fire dragon crossing the bridge" and "the dragon coil" to experience the charm of this national intangible cultural heritage.


A little night glow dragon will also make its dance debut during the Mid-Autumn Festival, performed by youths.


Meticulous craftsmanship


Every year, a brand new fire dragon, 67 metres long, is meticulously crafted by the Tai Hang Residents' Welfare Association.


The dragon’s head and tail are made of rattan frames while its body is made of ropes that are covered by thick layers of grass and firmly secured with iron wires.


In an effort to explain the purpose behind the grass, Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre Chief Operating Officer Allen Tong said: "The grass can hold incense sticks in place to enhance the fire dragon's shape."


On the 14th day of the eighth lunar month, the fire dragon is moved to the Tai Hang Lin Fa Temple for a worship ceremony conducted in Hakka dialect.


After inserting incense sticks, the fire dragon parades through the streets of Tai Hang in a clockwise direction.


"In the past, the fire dragon ended the plague, nowadays it blesses everyone with peace and good health," Mr Tong added.


New lease of life


Officially opened last October, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre on School Street of Tai Hang is the place where the fire dragon’s story is told.


The exhibition centre’s ground floor showcases over 140 years of fire dragon culture. A Hakka-themed restaurant is on the first floor, while the second floor serves as a multifunctional space for various workshops that teach people how to make a kind of Hakka dumpling Cha Guo and fragrant sachets, for a taste of Hakka culture.


Allen Tong pointed out that the heritage centre attracts over 2,500 visitors each month, of which about 10% are overseas tourists and the others are students and members of different communities.


"The fire dragon only parades for three nights a year. Not every Hong Kong citizen or foreign tourist can make time to watch it. With the establishment of the heritage centre, we can now showcase the essence of our culture and the parade 365 days a year," he said.


To allow visitors to experience the craftsmanship behind the fire dragon, the heritage centre plans to launch a dragon ball workshop. The dragon balls are crucial in leading the fire dragon's way in the parade.


Key enhancements


The heritage centre is a Grade 3 historic building, which used to be a Confucian school founded in the late Qing Dynasty.


Revitalised through the Development Bureau's Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme, it is now operated by the Tai Hang Residents' Welfare Association.


Commissioner for Heritage Ivanhoe Chang said that since the scheme was launched in 2008, a total of 22 government-owned historic buildings have been selected for revitalisation.


After a review of the scheme, there will be multiple enhancement measures starting from the next batch, Mr Chang explained.


“We will be allowing the non-profit-making organisations (NPOs), who need to carry a charitable status for application, to partner with other organisations, including commercial organisations, so that they will have a more sustainable management capability to ensure the projects will be able to operate smoothly.”


Another enhancement is to increase the financial support to the NPOs. As such, the scheme will raise the one-off grants from a maximum amount of $5 million to $6 million to meet the starting costs and operating deficits, if any, for the NPOs for the first two years of operation.


Furthermore, after the announcement of the seventh batch, applications will be accepted in groups to shorten the approval process.


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