Tag Archives: lanterns

Mid-Autumn Festival Hong Kong 2011, Moon Fun Playground lantern exhibition: Fairground attraction!

Mid-Autumn Festival is rolling round again (four day weekend, hollaaaa!), so what better time to bring you… a full year late… the gorgeous lanterns from last year’s festivities?!

My advice is to bypass the crowds at Victoria Park and instead head to Tsim Sha Tsui’s Cultural Centre Piazza, where every year they have an awesome thematic lantern exhibition. It stays on display for a full month (much longer than the ones at Victoria Park), is less crowded (especially if you hit it when everyone else is having their dinner or when they are otherwise occupied with the Symphony Of Lights show), provides almost an hour’s worth of photo opportunities and intense study of all the amazing close-up details of each lantern, plus you can then get the Star Ferry home and admire HK’s amazing skyline… its very own modern cityscape of a lantern show.

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Mid-Autumn Festival Hong Kong 2010, The Rhapsody of Hong Kong Memories: Lights, camera, lanterns!

The lanterns didn’t stop there. Over in Tsim Sha Tsui, there was an absolutely amazing lantern display entitled The Rhapsody of Hong Kong Memories. These cute and quirky lanterns, depicting nostalgic scenes from 1960s Hong Kong, were designed by Leo Tang and I thought they were just lovely. Perfectly capturing the spirit of Hong Kong with a fond heart and light touch, it’s the sort of ephemera that’s unlikely to go down in the history books but provokes all sorts of loving rose-tinted memories. Now I’ll let the photos do the talking; as ever, click for enlargements.

Hustle and Bustle

These show scenes from 1960s city life, including many traditional businesses that have since died out, like shoe-shiners, calligraphers and rickshaw drivers.

A policeman in his pagoda directing traffic in the days before traffic lights. (Vintage photos from HK Police Force website and HK Man’s Flickr).

A tai-tai at the tailor’s – check out that retro hair-do!

I loved the attention to detail. Here the little boy at the barber is reading a comic-book to keep him entertained – and you can actually look inside the box and see what comics are on offer (hello Astro Boy!).

This little fellow is Lap Sap Chung, a monster created in a campaign to stop HKer’s from littering. He’s being chased by Miss Super Clean, remembered by lots of pre-pubescent teenage boys for her mini-skirts and go-go boots! Mischievous Lap Sap Chung proved so popular that he soon found himself being recreated as merchandise and inflatable toys! His memory was so enduring – a survey found that over 90% of respondents had heard of Lap Sap Chung! – that he was revived for a recent Keep Hong Kong Clean campaign. He even has a Facebook Group in his honour! (Posters from Chan.police’s Flickr and Gwulo.com)

Also note the red, white and blue striped lanterns in the background. These are based on the infamous plastic ‘amah bags’ that you see at wet markets or lugged around by Filipinos, burst to breaking point. I even saw one woman trying to post a full one! (Photo from Red, White, Blue, Here, There, Everywhere Flickr)

Delicious Memories

What would HK be without its food?! Here’s someone enjoying a meal at a dai pai dong (food stall in the street) – love how you can see the pak choi in the owner’s wok!

A spinning cup of milk tea (ngai cha), so beloved of HKers, being serenaded by a teddy boy.

A street hawker, carrying wicker baskets full of vegetables suspended on a bamboo pole on his shoulder. I love how the lady buying from him even has a shopping list in her hand!

An ‘airplane olives’ (fei gei larm) hawker with his distinctive brown paper bag. If you saw him in the streets, you would call down and he would throw the olives up to you several stories high! You would then drop down your money – only paying for what you caught, mind!

Not sure what this guy’s offering us. Hotpot? Congee? An ashtray? (OK, the last one seems unlikely). Answers on a postcard please.

Starfruit-shaped lantern!

Home Sweet Home

This one confused me – was there some strange game in the 1960s where kids had to run to and from a tap?! My auntie had a look and thinks it refers to the days when children would have to go to the village tap to collect buckets of water for the whole family back home. (Those slippers are so Hong Kong as well!)

In the old days, apartments were very small and people slept in simple metal or wood bunk beds to save as much space as possible. Here, the little girl is making plastic flowers by hand, a part-time job many people had in the 1960s to generate a little extra income.

The mum, carrying her baby in the typical Chinese papoose-sling on her back, seems to have rollers in her hair. No GHDs in those days!

The little girl is holding a traditional rabbit lantern for Mid-Autumn Festival; these stem from the rabbit’s presence in the myth behind the Moon Festival and are still sold nowadays.

Traditional paper lanterns for Mid-Autumn Festival – none of that inflatable singing and dancing tat in those days!

Do I need to tell you this is a retro thermos flask?!

Play & Playground

You might notice that some of these happy children are running about in what appear to be the old-school colourful wooden building blocks that children from yesteryear used to play with.

The circle-shaped counters with different coloured airplanes on, seen floating in the background or decorating the giant lanterns, are from a popular Chinese board game, Flying Chess (飛行棋). I say board game, it’s actually played on a fold-up piece of paper and works similarly to Ludo or Frustration. I only noticed this when I was looking back on my photos afterwards and it’s the little touches like this that Tang totally nails; I actually remember playing this when I was little and seeing that detail really made me smile, which is exactly the sort of response I think he hoped for. (飛行棋 photo from DChome forum – I swear I have the exact same game at home!)

The centrepiece to the whole display was a giant rabbit lantern, stuffed with old-school lamps, shop signs and birdcages. The amount of work that must have gone into it! Almost seems a shame that it will all have to be taken down : (

Cute, charming and quintessentially Hong Kong. What’s not to love?

The Rhapsody of Hong Kong Memories, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza (near Star Ferry), Tsim Sha Tsui. 10 September until 17 October 2010, 6.30-11.30pm.


Mid-Autumn Festival Hong Kong: It’s a marvellous night for a mooncake

Mid-Autumn Festival may just be one of my favourite festivals in Hong Kong because just about everywhere makes the effort to look pretty. Admittedly, all it takes is a few paper lanterns scattered about, but at night time especially, it looks charming and uniquely Chinese.

Also know as Moon Festival, it’s held on the 15th day of the 8th month (of the lunar calendar, so roughly late September) when the moon is supposed to be at its brightest. There are many variants of the legend behind the festival, but I’ll tell you (in the best Chinese tradition!) the one that my mum told me.

A long long time ago, there used to be ten suns in the sky, which burnt away terribly at the Earth. The emperor commanded the most skilled archer in all the land, Hou Yi, to shoot down all but one of the suns – which he did, leaving us with the one sun we have today. As a reward, he was given a magic potion that would grant him eternal life and he hid it away at home. According to my mum’s version, Hou Yi became a tyrant, corrupted by power and ambition; on seeing this, his beautiful wife, Seung Orr, decided to eat the pill herself to prevent him from living forever (other versions have the wife finding and eating the pill accidentally). Upon eating the pill, she found herself becoming lighter and lighter and she began to float. Eventually, she floated out of the window, up into the sky and onto the moon where she lives today. She also has her rabbit with her, who you can sometimes see outlined on the moon.

If you’re a virgin to Moon Festival, there are only two things you need to know – lanterns and mooncake! Seung Orr adorns many a mooncake box and the traditional cakes are made with a yellow duck egg inside, representing the moon. Nowadays, there are all kinds of modern takes on the mooncake, including chocolate, mango, green tea or even ‘snowy’ ice-cream ones. We bought one that was shaped like a pig! It came in a miniature version of the traditional basket that real pigs used to be carried to market in the olden days and I love how he even has a little curly tail. Alas, he had to be decapitated and eaten – the filling was green bean paste – and my auntie said he looked a lot nicer than he tasted!

Lanterns are lit to accentuate the brightness of the moon and on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival itself, paper ones are lit and floated off to the moon. This year, one managed to land on an MTR train, sparking a small fire, panic, evacuations, delays and talk of regulating lanterns more closely next year. As with mooncakes, lanterns have evolved with the times and you can get them in practically any shape, size or colour you desire, with inflatable musical cartoon character versions proving particularly popular with youngsters (so if it’s late September and you’re hearing a tinny tune in the dim and distant, it’s probably a toddler holding a blow-up Doaremon).

We went to the special market in Tsing Yi’s Maritime Square Mall, which is basically your one-stop Mid-Autumn shop. As you can see, the lantern stall was a riot of colour! We bought two ($35 each) – a pretty lotus flower and a gorgeous goldfish. You can see them in action in our flat below!

However, these are mere small fry compared to the lanterns that the government has built to mark the occasion. For all of Mid-Autumn weekend, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay is transformed into a luminous lantern extravaganza. It costs a small fortune but hey, who cares when it looks this spectacular?!

Check out my posts on more beautiful Mid-Autumn lanterns in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong here and here