Date
19 September 2017
Tai Hang troupe members whip up a fiery dragon dance. This year the ancient ritual celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival begins on Sunday. Photo: Xinhua
Tai Hang troupe members whip up a fiery dragon dance. This year the ancient ritual celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival begins on Sunday. Photo: Xinhua

Woman breaks glass ceiling in ancient ritual

She grew up watching her father organize dragon dances, learned his trade secrets and picked up a few musical skills.

Now Chu Ji-yin is in charge.

It’s not a small matter in a traditional industry that has been dominated by males, am730 reported Friday.

Chu is the new band leader of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance troupe and one day, she could be promoted to master coordinator, conductor Chan Tak-fai was quoted as saying.

Chan said he was impressed by Chu’s attitude and work ethic and her dedication to training allowed her to learn the intricacies of the traditional dance very quickly.

Chu began by observing how her father would supervise every aspect of production — from the dancers and musicians to the stage hands and the props.  

She became part of an ensemble that performed lantern dances before she left the crew at the age of 12.

In her new role, Chu is quite happy just being able to contribute to the troupe. If she is blazing a trail for women, she is unaware of it.

“I will come to work even if I’m pregrant,” she said.    

The fire dragon dance tradition began sometime in the 19th century when Tai Hang villagers miraculously stopped a plague.

That led to a tradition that has since been designated as part of China’s official intangible cultural heritage.

While Tai Hang is no longer a village, its residents continue to recreate the fiery ancient ritual to this day, with a fiery dragon adorned with thousands of lighted incense sticks for three nights around the Mid-Autumn Festival.

This year, the event starts on Sept. 7 and ends on Sept 9.

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