Festivals, Hong Kong
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.
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.
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
Ninth Moon, Day 9 (in September/October)
The Chung Yeung Festival is a day to respect and remember ancestors.
Also known as Autumn Remembrance, this festival is similar to Ching Ming in the spring, in that families journey to the graves of their ancestors to perform cleansing rites and pay their respects. They share the food they bring along, especially Chinese cakes, ko, which is a homonym of the word for "top". Some believe that those who eat these cakes will be promoted to the top.
It is also a day for hiking. The Chung Yeung Festival commemorates a Han Dynasty (BC 202-AD 220) legend, which tells how a soothsayer advised Woon King that he should take his family to a high place for the entire ninth day of the ninth moon. Upon their return, the Woon family discovered all living things in their village had been slaughtered. Today, many Hong Kong families head to the hills to picnic during the Chung Yeung Festival.
With the cooler weather and clear skies at this time of the year, many people simply take the opportunity to go on one of Hong Kong's many hikes. Why not join a hiking tour for the day!
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.
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.
"Poon Choi" also known as "Big Bowl Feast", is a type of age-old delicacy composed of different layers of ingredients served in wooden basins. The tradition of “Poon Choi” dates back to Song Dynasty (AD1270s) when China was invaded by the Mongolians and the imperial family was forced to flee south to Hong Kong. Villagers in the New Territories were endeavored to provide the imperial family with their best food they had. As they could not find sufficient nice containers, they used big wooden basin to serve the food. Formerly, it is a dish exclusive to walled villagers in the New Territories, which served only during religious rituals, festivals, special occasions and wedding banquets, and usually shared only among family members or their disciples. Nowadays, Poon Choi can be enjoyed at many restaurants throughout the year. And because of hygine reason, many of them changed to use metal basin instead of wooden ones.
Chung Yeung Festival falls on the 9th day of the 9th month of Lunar calendar. It is a day to remember and pay respect to our ancestors. People will conduct grave-sweeping and offerings to ancestors' graveyard. It is also a get-to-the-nature day for hiking. The festival is about a Han Dynasty (BC202 – AD220) legend. A soothsayer advised Woon King that there would be a disaster, and told him he should take his family to a high place for the entire 9th day of the 9th month. Woon King did it, and upon his return to his village, all living things in the village had been slaughtered.
Definition:Dragon Boat Racing is the Asian equivilent of the Oxbridge race, albeit with a shorter paddle , a drummer to boot and a dragon's head on the prow. Normally celebrated in in Hong Kong in early June to mark the death of an ancient hero.
Where to see this:Stanley Bay and various other locations
(see link below for more details)
Since arriving in HK about a month, Hubby has assimilated nicely in his new home. So comfortable is he that his mates have recruited him as a team member in the annual Dragon Boat contest . Dragon Boat Racing is BIG over here, so big that it is a public holiday on its own.This sport orginated from China when a Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan,drowned himself some 2000 years ago to protest against corrupted officials. His suicide drove the local folks nuts since the sods took to their boats, beat some drums loudly to scare the living hell out of all the fish in the river and later threw lots of tasty rice dumplings to prevent the same fish from feasting on their hero. Yes, grief drives us to do odd things sometimes.
Still, I'm proud to say that my husband is now carrying on this proud tradition of rowing the dragon boat in Hong Kong. Though this sport was available in Singapore, we were never really into it as most Singaporeans care more about the fish fodder, I meant dumplings, than about dragon boat racing. It's true, most of us would rather spend up to S$20 for glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with abalone, chestnuts and other exotic ingredients then paddle a boat in the river and get a really bad sunburn. I'm no exempt.
My knowledge of Duan Wu Jie ( The Dragonboat Festival ) is sadly limited to dumplings. It's a real pity I can't make it to HK in time for this event but trust me, I will be in Stanley Bay next year about this time to cheer for hubby, with poms poms and maybe a dumpling or two.
Note:Hubby's team came in 7th this year and they celebrated over beer, not dumplings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of my favourite Chinese Festivals is Mid Autumn Festival or lantern festival. It is celebrated at the end of September or beginning of October on the night of a full moon. People go out at night carrying lanterns. They normally head to a park or beach and sit and gaze at the full moon and eat mooncakes and brightly cooured round fruits.
The festival is based on a legend in which a famous archer, Houyi, was asked by the Chinese emperor to shoot down nine of the ten suns that exsisted in the sky at that time as they were scorching the Earth. Houyi did so and was rewarded with a pill that could make him immortal. He was advised that the pill was so strong he should only consume half of it. Houyi hid the pill in his home, but while he was out his beautiful wife, Chang'e found the pill and consumed all of it. The pill was so strong she flew out of the house and floated up to the moon. She asked the moon hare to make her a new pill so she could return to her husband. and hundreds of years later the moon hare is still trying to make the pill. Meanwhile Houyi is able to visit Chang'e on the moon once a year during the Mid-Autumn Festival on the night of the full moon.