This trip to Hong Kong was arranged by my mom. I don’t recall our conversation about deciding to come here or how the travel plans even came to fruition, but this is my mother’s favorite city. She is a stenographer and travels often with her job. Like any other place you love at first sight, Hong Kong spoke to her and she wanted to share it with Maureen and me.
Whenever, my mom would travel to Asia she would ask if there was anything I wanted her to bring back. My answer was always the same, “Anything with a dragon on it”. As a kid, I don’t remember having a particular liking for one animal outside my love of horses and our pet dogs. I didn’t have an extensive collection of things with frogs on them or elephant figurines. In Alaska and Hawaii people will talk about “spirit animals”, which is a special animal you identify with and call your own. I never felt it (although, after eight years I think that the wolf is becoming my Alaskan spirit animal). But nothing gets me as excited as a really good dragon.
Dragons can be found in hundreds of cultures around the world, but in China they take centerstage. They are on everything and I love it. Perhaps that is because they are a sign of power, strength, good luck and historically was the symbol of the Emporor of China. Dragons also control water and weather and is the image used for yang, or masculine element.
The Mid-Autumn Festival has been celebrated for centuries and it focuses on giving thanks for a healthy harvest as well as special attention to the moon which signifies unity. Many offerings such as round fruits and mooncakes are meant to symbolize the moon.
The dragon dance is one of the biggest events during the Mid-Autumn Festival and I didn’t know what to expect. I had just arrived from the airport, tired and dazed, but I heard “dragon” and decided to ignore my drained state of mind and go anyway. I read that…
“When the people of Tai Hang village miraculously stopped a plague with a fire dragon dance in the 19th century, they inadvertently launched a tradition that has since become part of China’s official intangible cultural heritage”
That explained the crowds.
The renouned dragon was scheduled to dance beginning down a narrow side street near Victoria Park. When I got there, people were staking out viewing areas, others were BBQing on open fires on the sidewalk. I found, well more like made, myself a spot and waited. It was about 20 minutes before the dragon came by.
You smelled it before you saw it. Then there was the smoke in a giant cloud looming over the heads of the onlookers. Then it came by, what appeared to be a mile long dragon of burning incense.
After the brief but impressive display of the fire dragon, I decided to head home via Victoria Park where the lanterns were exhibited. I knew exactly where I was going as it was impossible to miss the intense glow from the park. The lanterns are large, radiant representations of animals and people in Chinese culture. The expo also had traditional costumes, drumming, dancing and horn music, and that’s just what I saw during the 30 minutes I was looking around.
Sore feet and fatigue were finally getting to me so I merged myself back into the foot traffic on the sidewalks headed for a soft pillow and air con.