Four festivals on national heritage list
Four traditional Hong Kong festivals have been placed on the national list of intangible cultural heritage.
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival, Tai O dragon boat water parade, Tai Hang fire dragon dance and the Yu Lan Ghost festival were put on the list after the government nominated them in 2009 - the first time Hong Kong had applied to the Ministry of Culture for such recognition.
'They all have unique characteristics and cultural value,' Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said. 'In spite of modernisation and urbanisation, they have been passed on from generation to generation and helped maintain the bonds of people in local communities, which has made the events valuable.'
Their new status will not carry any tangible benefits for the festivals but will make the government responsible for preserving them. It will also buoy the hopes of residents struggling to keep the traditions alive amid threats from urban development and waning interest among the young.
The four century-old festivals were among 349 cultural items shortlisted from more than 3,000 last year.
Barry Lam Fung-lam, vice-secretary general of the Teochew International Convention, which worked closely with the government in handling the application of the Chiu Chow community's Yu Lan Ghost Festival, said he would work harder to preserve the festival. 'This proves that the government recognises the importance of Chiu Chow culture and that our hard work in promoting the event has not been wasted.'
About 1.2 million Hong Kong people whose families originate from Chaozhou (Chiu Chow in Cantonese) in Guangdong carry on the traditions in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, offering sacrifices to ancestors and wandering ghosts.
Yung Chi-ming, chairman of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival Committee, said: 'This is very conducive to promoting the tourism of Cheung Chau and preserving the traditions for our next generation.'
In the Tai O Dragon Boat Water Parade, to be held next week, residents row deity statues through the village's canals. In the Tai Hang festival, a fire dragon is paraded to ward off disease.