Learning about Hakka unicorn dances and Chinese puppetry at the Intangible Cultural Heritage Market

Learning about Hakka unicorn dances and Chinese puppetry at the Intangible Cultural Heritage Market

Junior reporter Lauren Faith Lau explores lesser known aspects of Chinese tradition at this year’s Hong Kong Culture Festival


They don’t look like unicorns, do they?
Photo: Lauren Faith Lau

The Intangible Cultural Heritage Market is one of the most sought after programmes of the Hong Kong Culture Festival, and highlights a huge variety of local traditions and Hong Kong culture. I swung by the market last Saturday to check it out …

Hakka unicorn dance

You’ve heard of a lion dance, and you’ve heard of a dragon dance, but have you heard of a Hakka unicorn dance? It looks more like a dragon-unicorn hybrid than an actual unicorn, don’t you think? These mythical creatures are represented by people dancing in a costume, to a cacophony of gongs and cymbals, and it isn’t a performance you want to miss.

This Hakka unicorn helps ward off bad luck, and brings good luck too. You’ll find, like with dragon and lion dances, a lot of events will have a Hakka unicorn dance as part of the festivities to bring prosperity to the event hosts. This is different to the traditional dragon and lion dances, as it has unique Hakka elements, like Hakka martial arts.

Pottering about with pottery at HKU

Pixiu dance

This dance is done for those who wish to bring in money, as well as the regular celebratory events! This mythical Chinese creature is said to have the head of a dragon, the body of a lion and antlers. A pixiu costume is made up of a head and a body, and the dance is done by two people. The dance is often done to celebrate the opening of a mahjong school, as it’s believed the creature will bless the school with wealth.

Chinese puppet dolls

A Chinese Puppet doll are very colourful but also kind of scary.
Photo: Lauren Faith Lau

These extremely colourful dolls caught my attention right away. There are four main branches of traditional Chinese puppetry; marionettes on strings, rod puppets, shadow puppetry, and glove puppets. These wooden puppets are all made by hand, and carved from separate pieces of wood that are connected together with strings.

Did you know that they are passed down from generation to generation? Many of the plays that use puppets tell traditional Chinese fairy tales and religious stories, and each story requires its own stage and set of props.

Traditional herbal tea

You’ve seen them in tea shops, in cafes, and even in 7-Eleven stores, right? Herbal teas are very important to Chinese people, as it’s believed that they offer cooling effects to the body and prevents heatstroke. This is important in a place like Hong Kong, where we have hot and humid weather. We still have a lot of herbal tea shops here in Hong Kong, so it’s no wonder that this was featured at the market!

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Hong Kong-style milk tea making technique

I absolutely cannot live without my morning cup of milk tea. Other people may need their morning cup of coffee, but this is what I need to start my day. We have a style of milk tea in Hong Kong called silk stocking milk tea, and it’s a recipe and method of tea-making that’s unique to Hong Kong.

What’s special about the making of the tea is that it involves a complex process that includes a certain ratio of tea leaves, of boiling, infusing and pouring the tea through a silk stocking with milk. This technique reflects the perfect blending of local colour and flavour, as well as our colonial roots.

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Keeping our heritage alive


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Kerry Hoo