Talking about Lion Dance or Dragon Dance, most of us may only see these performances during Chinese New Year or other typical Chinese festivals. Not many are aware that these traditional practices have long been part of the culture within Chinese community. To let the public be better informed, the fifth Hong Kong Culture Festival returned in September with relevant performances and activities, which aims at preserving and revitalising the intangible cultural heritage.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage Mart, a program in the festival, was held successfully in Hong Kong Cultural Centre Plaza, Tsim Sha Tsui, during the weekend of October 25 to 27. Performances included intangible cultural heritages, such as the Lion Dance and different types of martial arts. Since they are not something that you can really touch upon or accurately describe, it is particularly hard to conserve.
In Hong Kong, it is always challenging to pass traditional practices to the younger generation. The martial arts performers are mainly the elderly, while the audience is mostly middle-aged. Therefore, the opening Lion Dance of the festival and the Nanying (南音) Workshop, a form of Cantonese narrative singing that was often heard around Hong Kong in the past, are good ways to encourage youth engagement in the traditional culture.
“I do support this festival, or else I would not join it. Especially in the recent months, Hongkongers do need something positive,” said Mr. Law Wai Chung, the 15th generation Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Master of the Xuan Wu Sect. He has joined the festival as a martial arts performer for three years.
Mr. Law believes that the inheritance of martial arts is essential since both his master and he wants to pass it to future generations and spread it to the world. However, traditional Chinese ideas seem to fade away among the younger generation.
“Things have changed a lot. Kids now have to learn a lot of stuff and they only treat their martial art masters like teachers. But in the past, once we follow our master, he will be our life-long father,” said Mr. Law, recalling the time when he went to Wudang Mountains and followed his master to learn martial arts.
Luckily, we can find some youngsters in the performance team, supported by Hong Kong Fat Keung Sports Association, the biggest association for dragon dance and other martial arts in Hong Kong since 1973. “We take time to join the festival every year,” said one of the performers from Fat Keung. The association has been actively participating in activities that promote the traditional Chinese lion and dragon dance. They also provide training for youth and hold various social welfare activities.
In addition to preservation, the festival is also a celebration of Hong Kong’s unique role as an irreplaceable repository of traditional Chinese culture and the bridge of Eastern and Western cultures. Unfortunately, due to the social protest and the inconvenient transportation, the mart closed at 5 pm and the workshops on Sunday were all canceled.
For those who have not watched Lion Dance or martial arts before, go and check the videos of the live performances and learn more about this treasure in Hong Kong!
Highlights of Intangible Cultural Heritage Mart Performance
Photo credits: Josie