Festivals, Hong Kong
This celebration takes place on the 15th day of the 8th moon (usually August/Sept) and celebrates a 14th century uprising against the Mongols. The conspirators wrote plans for the revolt on pieces of paper baked in cakes and then distributed them to compatriots.
Moon Cakes are one of the delicacies at this time and can be filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and sometimes a duck egg.
I went to Causeway Bay (Victoria Park) during the festival to watch the families all light their lanterns and watch the children lighting their candles.
Seventh Moon, Day 15 (in July/August)
For one long lunar month during the Hungry Ghost Festival, ghosts are said to roam the earth.
In some areas of Hong Kong, visitors can see small roadside fires, where believers burn paper money and other offerings to appease the restless spirits.
Local festivals feature Chinese opera. Popular venues are King George V Memorial Park in Kowloon and Moreton Terrace Playground in Causeway Bay.
If you find some unwanted coins scattered on the street, please don't try to pick them. They are for the 'Ox Head Horse Face" who patronizes the ghosts.
The Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch will held the talk on Ghost Festival, please check:Calendar
Eighth Moon, Day 15 (in September/October)
The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most charming and picturesque nights of the calendar.
The festival commemorates a 14th Century uprising against the Mongols. In a cunning plan, the rebels wrote the call to revolt on pieces of paper and embedded them in cakes that they smuggled to compatriots.
Today, during the festival, people eat special sweet cakes known as "Moon Cakes" made of ground lotus and sesame seed paste, egg-yolk and other ingredients. Along with the cakes, shops sell coloured Chinese paper lanterns in the shapes of animals, and more recently, in the shapes of aeroplanes and space ships. On this family occasion, parents allow children to stay up late and take them to high vantage points such as The Peak to light their lanterns and watch the huge autumn moon rise while eating their moon cakes. Public parks are ablaze with many thousands of lanterns in all colours, sizes and shapes.
Also not to be missed is one of the most spectacular celebrations you'll ever see which takes place in Causeway Bay during the Mid-Autumn Festival on the 14th - 16th day of the eighth lunar month. It's the fire dragon dance in Tai Hang - a collection of streets located in behind the Causeway Bay recreation grounds and features a dragon measuring 66 metres.
Over a century ago, Tai Hang was a village whose inhabitants lived off of farming and fishing. A few days before the Mid-Autumn Festival a typhoon and then a plague wreaked havoc on the village. While the villagers were repairing the damage, a python entered the village and ate their livestock. According to some villagers, the python was the son of the Dragon King. The only way to stop the havoc which had beset their village was to dance a fire dance for three days and nights during the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival. The villagers made a big fire dragon of straw and stuck incense into the dragon. They lit firecrackers. They danced for three days and three nights and the plague disappeared.
Fourth Moon, Day 8 (in April/May)
Enormous bamboo towers studded with sweet bun and effigies of three gods dominate the grounds near the Pak Tai Temple, where the main festivities take place. The festival that lasts for about a week climaxes with a large, colourful street procession, which features costumed children on stilts in a carnival atmosphere that winds its way through the streets.
One of the reputed origins of this popular festival, which attracts tourists by the tens of thousands each year, involves a plague on the island hundreds of years ago. Villagers disguised themselves as different deities and walked around the island to drive away the evil spirits responsible for the plague. Another story says the festival is part of an annual exorcism and fast.
In the past, the last event of this weeklong celebration was the climbing of the bun towers. Young people would scamper up the bamboo bun towers and grab as many buns as possible. The participants were so quick, that thousands of buns would be plucked from the bamboo frames in a manner of minutes. The buns would then be sold or distributed to those who did not join in the competition. This ritual was abandoned after one of the towers collapsed in 1978, but the bun towers are still set up around the Pak Tai Temple every year. Today, the buns are simply distributed at the end of the festival.
Fifth Moon, Day 5 (in June)
The Dragon Boat Festival combines a fast-paced sporting spectacular with a traditional festival.
The Festival, also known as Tuen Ng Festival, commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2,000 years ago to protest against the corrupt rulers. Legend says that as townspeople attempted to rescue him, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating Qu Yuan's body.
The real highlight of the festival is the fierce dragon boats racing in a lively, vibrant spectacle. Teams race the elaborately decorated dragon boats to the beat of heavy drums. The special boats, which measure more than 10 metres, have ornately carved and painted "dragon" heads and tails, and each carries a crew of 20-22 paddlers.
Participants train in earnest for the competition. Sitting two abreast, with a steersman at the back and a drummer at the front, the paddlers race to reach the finishing line, urged on by the pounding drums and the roar of the crowds.
Today, festival activities recall this legendary event. People eat rice-and-meat dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves; and many look forward to swimming or even simply dipping their hands in the water.
There is a beautiful story which goes along with the Lantern festival. I have only been told it once.. so I will probably mess it up in retelling. So.. rather than offend with my ignorance.. I will just say that it was quite an event. It seemed as if EVERYONE in Hong Kong as well as half of the mainland, was crowded into Victoria Park that night. I'm not used to crowds of this size and I had worn painful shoes.. but it was breathtaking.
The lanterns were like something out of a fairie tale. I was nervous with the immense crowd and the police had blocked most streets and exits. But I need not to have worried, everyone was very polite and courteous and was having a good time. There is no way that a crowd of that size could exist in the states without someone getting into a fight or pickpocketed.
Be sure to pick up some mooncakes from Maxims on your way and a sheet or something to sit on in the park.
Added to the colourful harbour in the festive night, there is a special fleet of vessels delighting the crowds immensely. These boats are traditional Chinese junks no longer on their past trades but now nicely lit up in their coloured prime, against the wonderful fireworks display in the harbour.
Crowds gather at the harbour front and podium of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to view the beautiful night scene and watch the fireworks, under a nicely decorated walkway. Here the moon proudly makes her appearance up the eastern horizon, joining the jubilating crowds and the colourful harbour where tall buidings are also dressed up exquisitely.
During the festival, besides stalls of traditional handifrafts, there are other interesting folkloric booths such as story-telling, lantern riddles, and stand-up comic acts. But this static lit display renders a particularly cultural element - a couplet from a famous Song lyric depicting everlasting romance.
This Chinese lantern with mobile images is displayed outside the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsimshatsui, and the wall banner on its right indicates an exhibition of Chinese calligraphy. A perfect match for this traditional cultural affair.
Mid Autumn Festival, popularly known as the Chinese Moon Festival, falls on the lunar calendar of August 15th, when the moon is said to be the brightest in a clear autumnal sky. This year the date falls on 11/9/03, and we Chinese people in Hong Kong had a joyous celebration time, when parks are decorated with lit lanterns and handicraft stalls, and the harbour was glittering with a momentary display of low-altitude fireworks. Here is a magnificently crafted Chinese lantern with mobile images traditionally run on hot air. It's now placed on a lotus pedestal.
One Chinese tradition that lives on in Hong Kong is the lion dance. A group of dancers/martial artists takes position under an ebaborately painted costome of a mythical Chinese lion. The lion is an animal that is much respected in Chinese culture. Lions are considered to bring good fortune and ward off evil, and that is why they often guard (in pairs) the entrance to houses and large buildings.
The origin of the Lion dance is uncertain, though some say it was brought to China from India, in the Tang dynasty (618-907), by entertainers and circus troupes. Whatever the origins, the Lion dance is an essential ceremony for the opening of new businesses, new year, and festivals.
Buddha is worshipped by hundreds of millions throughout Asia and around the world and his birthday is celebrated with great reverence in Hong Kong. The festival celebrating the birth of Buddha, or Prince Siddhartha Sakyamuni, falls on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese calendar. It gives us all a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Chinese religion, history, culture and traditions.
In Hong Kong, one of the most popular destinations to celebrate Buddha's birthday is the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, which is home to the famous Big Buddha. Worshippers will show their devotion by bathing Buddha's statue, which symbolizes purification of the body and mind. Followers will also congregate at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery at Sha Tin, so named for its multitude of statues of Buddha (nearer 13,000 at last count) that line the inside walls of the temple. Other celebrations will be at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, the Chi Lin Nunnery on Diamond Hill and the Miu Fat Buddhist Monastery in the New Territories
The most important festival on the Chinese calendar is Chinese New Year. It is the most celebrated festival and marks the beginning of the new lunar calendar. During this period, the city is full of excitement and colour - it glows with colourful lights, huge flower markets, a waterfront parade, a spectacular fireworks display and action-packed Chinese New Year's horseracing. Spring pilgrimages are also highly popular as devotees head to Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple and Che Kung Temple, making their wishes or checking out their fortunes for the coming year. Celebrations will continue until Day 15, the Spring Lantern Festival, also known locally as Chinese Valentine's Day. Traditional lanterns are lit in temples and parks and families and couples gather to enjoy a memorable evening. This marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Chinese New Year is a family occasion, but it's also a great time for visitors as the festival is packed with exciting events and colourful programmes.
CHINESE FESTIVALS IN HK: (Excerpts From HKTA)Lunar New Year:
The Lunar New Year festival is the most important of all Chinese celebrations & marks the arrival - in spirit, at least - of spring. It is a time for spring cleaning, buying new clothes, getting a haircut, settling debts, visiting friends & relatives, taking an annual holiday & exchanging gifts. Banks, businesses & many shops close for 3 days or longer.
Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve is the most festive day of the year in HK, when the entire family (including the spirits of the deceased) gather for a reunion dinner, bringing many family members back to HK from all over the world. Symbolic food eaten at this time includes abalone (abundance), bean sprouts (prosperity), oysters (good business), fish (surplus) & pork (prosperity).
After the reunion dinner, a popular activity is to visit a flower market to buy peach & plum branches, which signify good luck. Kumquat trees are also popular, as 'kum' is pronounced in the same way as the Chinese word for 'gold'. The most well-known flower market is at Victoria Park on HK Island, but other smaller ones are held at Boundary Street, Sha Tin, Tai Po & Yuen Long, to name a few.
Also on Lunar New Year's Eve, Chinese people paste to their doors pictures of the Door Gods & strips of red paper proclaiming greetings of wealth, good fortune & longevity. Another important part of the Lunar New Year holiday is the famous public fireworks display which takes place over the harbor, usually on the 2nd day of the Lunar calendar. This has its roots in a legend about a wild beast, nihn, which came to devour villagers. On discovering it was afraid of bright lights, the color red & loud noises, families protected themselves by painting certain objects red, ensuring their houses were brightly lit, & banging drums, gongs & bamboo crackers.
On Lunar New Year's Day, people visit temples & hand out lai see ('lucky money') packets to children & unmarried men & women, accompanied by the words 'Kung Hei Fat Choy', or 'May you prosper in the new year'.
This is also the time of the year to consult the Tung Shu (Chinese almanac), an annual publication dating back 2200 years before Christ. It includes divined information on auspicious & inauspicious days, dates of lunar festivals, numerology & fertility.
Yuen Siu ('Spring Lantern') Festival:
The Spring Lantern Festival marks the 15th & final day of the Lunar New Year holiday, & also the first full moon of the New Year. The holiday dates back to the Han Dynasty (206BC to AD221) & celebrates the removal from power of the hated Emperor Lu & his consort.
It's also know as Chinese Valentine's Day because it traditionally was also a day on which young, unmarried women wore their finest clothes & ventured out with their chaperones to places where eligible young men gathered.
Although Hong Kong's main lantern celebration takes place during the Mid-Autumn Festival, you can still see lanterns displayed in homes, shops, restaurants & temples during this Festival.
Ching Ming Festival:
This Confucian festival is one of the 2 annual holidays on which to honor the dead. Originating during the Han Dynasty (206BC to AD221), Ching Ming is observed by visiting ancestral graves, which are swept, washed & newly painted. Offerings of meat, fruit, wine & flowers are made, while gold & silver 'money' is burned to give the ancestors enough to spend in the afterworld.
All Chinese cemeteries, particularly at Wo Hop Shek, Aberdeen, Happy Valley, Chai Wan & on Cheung Chau Island, are busy at this time. Many family graves are located in the New Territories & on outlying islands.
Tin Hau Festival:
Hong Kong's 24-plus Tin Hau temples, dedicated to Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, burst into celebration on the deity's birthday.
The legend of Tin Hau dates back to the 12 Century when a young girl from Fujian fishing village, said to be born with mystical powers, saved her 2 brothers from drowning during a terrible storm. Today, fisherfolk pray to the goddess to ensure bountiful catches & protect them from storms & shipwrecks. Tin Hau Temple celebrations include colorful parades, Chinese opera & the sailing of hundreds of gaily festooned junks & sampans through HK's waterways.
Tam Kung Festival:
Tam Kung is a Taoist child-god whose powers developed when he was 12 years old. As his greatest gift was controlling the weather, he is popular with fishermen. In Shau Kei Wan on HK Island, many residents hold Tam Kung responsible for saving lives during a cholera outbreak in 1967.
Birthday of Lord Buddha:
This festival commemorates the birthday of Prince Siddharta Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, in the 6th Century.
The Buddha-Bathing Ceremony takes place at the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. It involves washing Buddha's image with scented water, to symbolize the washing way of sins & a striving to attain purity & wisdom. Devotees are served rice porridge, known as 'Buddha's Bath Water'.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival:
This unique festival takes place on Cheung Chau Island. It is believed that restless ghosts roam this peaceful island at this time of the year. Some say they are the spirits of islanders massacred by notorious 19th-Century pirates, others say they are the spirits of animals killed & consumed during the year. The Festival takes place over 7 days & is held to placate the spirits. During the Festival, villagers eat only vegetarian food; paper houses, cars & money are burned; & food is offered to appease the ghosts' hunger.
The festival's most spectacular symbols are 3 16-metre bamboo-&-paper towers which are covered with sweet pink & white buns. Another unique feature is a grand procession of ornately costumed children, aged from 5 to 8, who appear to 'float' at head-height among the crowds. Lion & dragon dances, Chinese opera & traditional rites at the Pak Tai Temple all give the island a carnival-like atmosphere.
Tuen Ng ('Dragon Boat') Festival:
This major festival commemorates the death of national hero & poet, Qu Yuen, who drowned himself in protest against a corrupt government in the 3rd Century BC. Villagers rowed towards him in a vain attempt to save his life, beating their paddles in the water to scare off fish. Rice-&-meat dumplings wrapped in leaves were also thrown into the river to feed the fish which would otherwise have eaten his body.
Today, narrow boats decorated with the head & tail of a dragon race each other with much symbolic drum beating. You can see the same kind of bamboo leaf dumplings on sale during the Festival.
Birthday of Lu Pan:
Lu Pan was born in 507BC & is the Taoist patron saint of carpenters & builders. Regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci, he is remembered as a brilliant architect, engineer & inventor credited with inventing the drill, the plane, the saw, the shovel, the lock & the ladder. His wife is said to have invented the umbrella.
People connected with the construction industry hold celebratory banquets on this day & pay their respects, traditionally at noon, at the Lu Pan Temple in Kennedy Town on HK Island, the only one in HK dedicated to this deity.
7 Sisters Festival:
The 7 Sisters, or Maidens', Festival stems from an ancient Chinese legend in which an orphaned cowherd was forced from his home by his brother & sister-in-law who gave him a cart, an ox & a small piece of land. His ox told him that if he stole the clothes of one of 7 maidens who visit earth to bathe in a river on a certain day, she would marry him.
According to the legend, the cowherd did steal the 7th Maiden's clothes & the 2 fell in love & married. After 3 years of happiness, she was ordered back to heaven. Despite becoming an immortal when he eventually died, the husband was kept away from his lover by the Queen Mother of the Western Heaven, who drew the Milky Way across the sky to keep them apart. Since then, they have been allowed to visit each other only one day a year, via a bridge of a thousand magpies.
In HK on the 6th day of the 7th lunar month, unmarried men pay homage to the cowherd. On the 7th day, unmarried women make offerings to the 7th Maiden, one of which is on a circular tray depicting the legend.
Yue Lan ('Hungry Ghosts') Festival:
This festival takes place to placate ghosts who have become dispossessed &, resenting this fact, could be dangerous to the earthly world. The gates of the underworld are opened & the ghosts are free to wander at will. Offerings of paper cars, furniture & money are made.
Presiding over the celebrations is the towering paper figure of Prince Daih Su, who ensures that the ghosts are satisfied. This accomplished, he retuns to heaven in a burst of flames at the end of the Festival.
This most magical of HK festivals celebrates the year's harvest. The legend behind the Festival's most enduring symbol, the mooncake, goes back to the 14th Century revolt against the Mongols who held a particular walled city. Chu Yuan-chang's deputy entered the city dressed as a Taoist priest & handed out mooncakes containing messages about the revolt. The revolt succeeded & formed the basis of the Ming Dynasty.
During the Festival, thousands of paper lanterns are sold & throngs of people make their way to parks & public places where they light them & watch the moon in all its glory. The moon is said to be at its fullest & brightest at this time of the year.
Birthday of Confucius:
Although the birthday of one of China's most influential philosophers is not widely celebrated, it is nevertheless observed by many people. Confucian ethics stress self-enlightenment through the Five Virtues of charity, justice, propriety, wisdom & loyalty. Filial devotion & ancestral worship, observed during both the Ching Ming & Chung Yeung festivals, continue to be a cornerstone of Confucianist practice today.
Chung Yeung Festival:
This Confucian holiday is the 2nd time in the year when families visit their ancestral graves to make offerings & pray. They might then enjoy a picnic at the graveside.