Today is the third day of the Lunar New Year. First of all, I would like to wish you good health and prosperity! Chinese people have attached particular importance to traditional festivals. Hong Kong, a small city as it might be, has carried on the heritage of a number of traditional festive events. Under Batch IV of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (Revitalisation Scheme), No.12 School Street in Tai Hang, Causeway Bay will be converted into the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre for the general public to appreciate and use the historic building while also learning about the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance and the traditional Hakka culture and history. This time, I have invited a representative of the non-profit-making organisation (NGO) responsible for revitalising this old building to share the details of the scheme.
Revitalisation works to be hopefully completed by the Mid-Autumn Festival this year
The Development Bureau launched Batch IV of the Revitalisation Scheme in December 2013, inviting proposals from NGOs for the revitalisation of a batch of government-owned historic buildings. No.12 School Street was one of these projects. In June 2015, the Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association was successfully selected to revitalise this Grade 3 historic building into the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre. Currently, the revitalisation works of the project are in full swing and the centre is aimed to be completed and opened for use by the Mid-Autumn Festival this year.
Showcasing the culture of Tai Hang Fire Dragon
According to Vice Chairman of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, Ms LO Wing-sze, Anthea, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is a century-old traditional event that has been inscribed onto the Third National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. During the Mid-autumn Festival each year, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon parades through the streets and alleys flanked with locals and visitors who wish to view this festive event. No. 12 School Street will be revitalised into the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre with an aim to bring culture and arts into the community, showcase the tradition and history of the unique fire dragon dance, and promote the traditional Hakka culture through various programmes and activities.
Simple modern architectural style
No. 12 School Street, with a site area of about 131 square metres (m2), has a gross floor area of about 338 m2. It was formerly the site of “Hung Shing Yi Hok” (孔聖義學, literally, “Confucius free school for the poor”) founded in the late Qing Dynasty. The school building was severely destroyed during the Japanese occupation and was reconstructed on the same site in 1949. With an emphasis on functionality and practicability, this three-storey building of simple modern style was accorded Grade 3 status by the Antiquities Advisory Board in December 2010. After reconstruction, the building has been used for educational purposes throughout the years. The street in front of the building is named “School Street (書館街)” to indicate the significance of the school in the neighbourhood.
Preserving building fabrics and features
According to Ms Anthea LO, the revitalisation project will preserve the original access points, the building façades, the foundation stone tablets, the shophouse staircase connecting the ground floor to the roof, the original steel window frames and grilles, and some timber flooring. An additional main entrance/exit will be built on First Lane, with a lift to be constructed next to it as a facility to provide barrier-free access. Besides, decorative lighting will be installed on the external wall of the lift tower for lighting effect at suitable times at night. It is hoped that the building will become a new cultural landmark in the district.
Organising educational and taster workshops
After revitalisation, the ground floor of the building will become an exhibition hall to showcase the history, origin, craft and story of the making of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon, the Fire Dragon Dance route, as well as the distinctiveness of Tai Hang as a traditional Hakka village and the features of the building itself. As the Tai Hang Fire Dragon is part of the Hakka traditions, the first and second floors will house Fire Dragon-themed restaurants that serve Chinese and Western cuisine, with Hakka dishes among the menu options to promote Hakka culinary culture. The second floor can also provide a venue for educational and taster workshops, a series of culture courses on topics such as Chinese literature and martial arts, and talks on traditional Chinese culture such as the traditions of dragon dance, lion dance and qilin dance, so as to reveal the original intention of the running of education in the early days of No. 12 School Street, and the tradition of martial arts in the indigenous Hakka villages in Tai Hang.
Big challenges in the revitalisation process
About the challenges encountered in the revitalisation process, Ms Anthea LO tells us that, due to the small size of No. 12 School Street, in order to make the best use of the limited space to display the rich contents of the exhibition, they will incorporate modern technology such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into the project. With various ways to interact with the exhibits, visitors will be able to learn about the Tai Hang Fire Dragon, and the culture and history of the district.
Also, she says that Tai Hang Residents’ Welfare Association is a rather small district body with little manpower and resources. However, since sustainability is vital to the success of a revitalisation project, they would like to proactively promote cultural tourism and design various combinations of tourism routes to link up No. 12 School Street with other attractions in the district, such as Lin Fa Temple and Haw Par Mansion, to attract more people to visit and use the historic building, increase vibrancy, and enhance the attractiveness of the entire district.
Linking a historic building with intangible cultural heritage, the revitalisation project of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre is something to look forward to. In the days to come, I will introduce more revitalisation projects in “My Blog” to share with you the passion and efforts of the Government, local groups and our whole community in the joint cause of conservation. The Tai Hang fire Dragon Dance came into being to eliminate misfortunes and ward off epidemics. I hope that the epidemic will be over as soon as possible in the new year. Stay safe, everybody!
14 February, 2021Back