by Rachel Au

(Originally published in 2020, updated in August 2023)

Aside from being Hong Kong’s cradle for countless culinary ventures, Tai Hang is also home to one of the city’s most spectacular festivities– the annual Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance. This Mid-Autumn Festival, treat yourself to a dazzling display of fire and fury, where around 300 people parade a 67-meter-long dragon lined with sticks of incense from head to tail, enshrouding the neighborhood in a warm, smoky glow.

How the fire dragon dance began

Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

Legend has it that this 138-year-old tradition began when Tai Hang was struck with three consecutive disasters a few days before the Mid-Autumn Festival in the 19th century. Still a small Hakka village at the time, Tai Hang was hit by a typhoon, which swept away everything in its path. A plague then followed, taking with it many lives. After that, the ill-fated villagers were put to the test again when a python made a foray into the village, guzzling much of the villagers’ livestock.

A village elder proclaimed that the only way to stop this misfortune was to perform a fire dragon dance around the village for three days and three nights, as revealed to him by the Buddha in a dream. The villagers did what they were told and miraculously, the plague disappeared. The plague may be long gone (thankfully!), but the ritual is kept alive by Tai Hang’s residents every year without fail.

“Fire dragons sound cool, but I’m hungry.” Check out how mooncakes are made at a traditional 52-year-old bakery.

About the fire dragon

fire dragon

The legendary fire dragon is a majestic beast, 67 meters long and inserted with over 20 thousand incandescent incense sticks. The body consists of a hemp rope spine wrapped with pearl straw, while the 70-kg head is made by coiling pearl straw around a rattan frame. Two flashlights form the creature’s eyes while sheets of metal make up its teeth and tongue.

The dragon is led by two orbs of light called “dragon pearls”– two pomelos inserted with many sticks of incense, spun with vigor to create a brilliant display of twirling radiance.

Quick fact: The Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance has been listed as a national Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2011.

What to expect

fire dragon dance

Lots and lots of people. The Fire Dragon Dance brings thousands of eager spectators to the narrow alleys of Tai Hang, so be warned that you’ll be squashed between sweaty skin and very energetic children.

The fire dragon dance will bring a frenetic buzz to the area. Tendrils of smoke wafting through the streets, sparks flying everywhere like fairy dust, blessing everything they land on with their magic. Besides the fire dragon dance, you’ll also be treated to marching bands and parades with adorable children dressed in traditional costumes.

When and where

We are so excited that Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance will resume in Hong Kong after a four-year hiatus. For three evenings, starting from Thursday, September 28th, the Fire Dragon Dance will commence at around 8:30 pm, lasting till 10:30 pm for the first two evenings, and till 10 pm for September 30th. Expect a big crowd and plan to get there early to save a spot. The routes are different on each night but the best vantage point is on Wun Sha Street. Please check out the map for more detailed information.

Enquiry: +852 2577 2649


Featured image courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board, image 1, 2 and 3 courtesy of Lin IVY Chan via Wikimedia Commons.