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New Year’s lions and dragons

Lion dances_1

Hong Kong has a penchant for weird and wonderful superlatives, including the largest origami mosaic, most expensive bathroom, loudest scream by an indoor crowd, and tallest revolving door.

On the first day of the New Year I went down to see the lion and dragon dances on the waterfront. Now a well-established annual parade, this year’s edition was also a bid to break the world record for the longest parade of Chinese unicorn (Qilin in Mandarin, Keilun in Cantonese). Two years ago the same event made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest ever lion dance display, with no less than 1,111 lions taking part.

Although I did see a lot of fearsome Qilin masks – perhaps a little ironic given their reputation as quiet, all-benevolent beings – the highlight was still the lions decked out in a host of vivid colours. My favourites were two who had been precariously balanced on tall bamboo poles, unfurling scrolls of well-wishes with a blast of confetti. All were accompanied by waving flags and the furious banging of cymbals, gongs and drums.

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A Qilin walks by

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Making a face

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Raising the banner

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Forward march

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Intricate headdress

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Flower power

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The acrobat

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Purple lion

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Preparing the scroll

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A New Year’s wish for vigour and spirit

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Happy lions

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The flag-bearer

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Chasing the lantern

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Procession

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On the waterfront

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New Year greetings

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Very colourful! I will be in Hong Kong in 2 weeks. I hope there will be something like this happening somewhere. I will be too early for the Chinese new year, which is a pity because it will be the year of the water snake, and I am a water snake.

    January 2, 2013
    • Just before New Year’s I came across this event on http://www.discoverhongkong.com – it was a sheer stroke of luck! I’m not sure if there’s anything big going on but you’ll catch us in the middle of ramping up our preparations for Chinese New Year.

      January 3, 2013
  2. JoV #

    I haven’t seen so many lions and dragons in a row but it is also awesome photography you have here. Beautiful, simply beautiful.

    January 2, 2013
    • Thanks JoV, I’m glad you enjoyed the photos!

      January 3, 2013
  3. I always love the colors of lion and dragon dances. In Indonesia we call the whole performance the “Barongsay” dance. I can imagine how festive and spectacular it will be during the Chinese New Year celebration. After all, that’s what the people in Hong Kong anticipate the most, isn’t it?

    January 2, 2013
    • We usually have a night parade on the first day of Chinese New Year – then the big fireworks follow the next evening. This was a wonderful prelude to the festival, especially considering how late it will be this year. 🙂

      January 3, 2013
  4. Fantastic! I’ve always wanted to experience something like that. Happy New Year!!

    January 2, 2013
    • Happy New Year Jodi – I’m sure you’ll get to see it on your travels sooner or later!

      January 3, 2013
  5. Colourful and vibrant! May your new year be as beautiful as the last one!

    January 3, 2013
    • Thank you Ann-Christine, best wishes for the coming year!

      January 3, 2013
  6. What a beautiful parade! I would love to see it someday; a different culture that can spread the horizons of my mind.

    January 3, 2013
    • It was gorgeous, and I couldn’t have asked for better weather conditions myself!

      January 3, 2013
  7. How I would love to witness that! Sometime in Feb isn’t it? Super shots, particularly the second one with the hazy skyline at the back!
    Warm wishes for continued success in the coming year James 🙂

    January 3, 2013
    • Chinese New Year usually swings between the end of Jan and middle of Feb – but they’ve been running this event every Jan 1st as a teaser! The crowds were relatively sparse at the event, I arrived about an hour early but that turned out to be unnecessary. Best wishes to you too Madhu! 🙂

      January 3, 2013
  8. Love this! I really hope to spend a New Year’s Eve/Day in Hong Kong some day. Such incredible colors and imagery. Thanks for sharing, James, and Happy New Year once again!

    January 3, 2013
    • I’m sure you will Meghan – I can’t promise that it will be on the same scale as New York or Sydney or Rio, but Hong Kong will probably surprise you! Thanks again and wish you all the best in the coming year!

      January 5, 2013
  9. Great photos and amazing colors! Best way to say Happy New Year. We will be in Hong Kong for the 1st time and will stay for 4 nights from Feb. 4- Feb.8, 2013. I think we will be gone by CNY, but hopefully will see some early preps for the big event.

    Thanks for sharing

    January 4, 2013
    • It was fabulous – and made me glad I didn’t party too hard the night before! The CNY flower markets begin on the 4th so you can head down to the big one in Victoria Park (beside Causeway Bay) or alternatively Fa Hui Park in Mong Kok. Don’t go in the morning though… they set up around lunchtime but only get into full swing later on in the afternoon.

      Enjoy your time in Hong Kong!

      January 5, 2013
  10. That procession- I’m so used to seeing one very loooooong dragon, but I guess a herd of frowning unicorns is cool too. I’m amazed that the crowds weren’t too bad. It seems like an event that would draw a lot of people.

    Happy 2013!

    Ps- what makes that bathroom so expensive? I’m almost afraid to ask…

    January 4, 2013
    • Funny thing is, the crowds that day were few and far between. My guess is that most were probably taking it easy after the shenanigans of the previous night! I got the sense that a lot of people happened to be there “by accident” – it wasn’t hugely publicised and may have been aimed more at visitors than locals.

      Happy New Year Erica!

      P.S. The entire toilet was crafted out of pure, solid gold… no kidding!

      http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/11000/most-expensive-bathroom

      January 5, 2013
      • That’s cool that you didn’t have to battle crowds, but kind of a shame that something so awesome is going on and people aren’t able to experience it.

        That.Is.Ridiculous.
        I wonder if it’s actually functioning. You know, someone walks in and asks to use the restroom, next thing they know they’re blinded by gold.

        January 9, 2013
  11. Hey hey hey amigo! feliz año nuevo! How have you been?

    It’s been a while since I last dropped by, today I came back to wordpress and Im just checking in all the blogs I used to read the most.

    Fantásticas imágenes, tengo unas ganas de conocer tu cultura increíbles! Can’t wait to get there some day.

    I’ll be checking you often now that I got my ltop fixed so, keep the good job up mate!
    Un abrazo James!

    January 11, 2013
    • Feliz año nuevo, Javi! Estás vivo! 😛

      I’ve been well – 2012 has been an amazing year and I’m looking forward to what is in store for me in the next twelve months.

      Tienes que venir a Asia, quizás como un “grad trip” después del fin de tu curso! You would love it I think. 😉

      Un abrazo también, amigo!

      January 12, 2013
      • Asia and New Zealand are now two destinies I’m aiming to go, as soon as I can afford it ^^

        ja ja, si estoy vivo, stronger than ever now 😀

        Estoy seguro que 2013 te ofrecerá fantástico material para plus ultra 😉

        January 12, 2013
      • Absolutely Javi, the first of two trips has just been booked for this Easter – with Bama no less. 😉

        January 12, 2013
  12. DAKOTA #

    JAMES!!! It’s been forever since I last dropped by your blog!!! It’s good to see you writing more and more. I’ve recently just returned to my blog, after a long hiatus due to so much going on in my life. I’m heading back to Europe in May – so excited. Hope all is well and your 2013 has been great so far!!! 🙂

    January 11, 2013
    • I wondered where you’d gone Dakota – it’s great to see you back in the blogosphere! Thanks for the well wishes and may this year bring you good health and lots of happiness. I look forward to seeing some more of your amazing photography. 🙂

      January 12, 2013
      • DAKOTA #

        I wondered too!!! I missed it all, and I miss taking photographs. Same to you friend! Hope you travel heaps this year as well!!!! 🙂 Will be back to read your updates!

        January 14, 2013
  13. Beautiful and interesting photos. I love the color and culture of Asia.

    January 30, 2013
    • Thanks for the comment, Jeff – I’m glad you enjoyed them.

      February 4, 2013
  14. Beautiful pictures! Wish I could have experienced it too! 🙂

    February 15, 2013

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