Today, I experienced what was the closest us Brits ever got to a ‘proper Chinese Street Festival’.
I was misinformed by my mother as to what she was getting up to. In fact, she was to take part in a BBC, Lottery funded, China Now event at Victoria Square, Birmingham. She didn’t explain entirely what it was about. So, I went to town to watch The Dark Knight. Unfortuantely, it was going to open _next_ Thursday and not last Thursday! Not wanting to have a wasted trip to twon, I decided to have a walk about and happened upon this event.
During the event, the Pak Ming Cantonese Opera made an appearance, and the musicians finally came out of hidding after 10 years absentia. After that little ‘finally!’ there came the procession. It was rather weird at first. There were these strange massive mask like thing which were meant to be Qilin, and attached to them were these 50 foot long trailing streamers which around 10 or so performers lifted together covering them to resemble something similar to a lion dance set up. There there three of these Qilin coloured red, yellow and blue.
The procession began with loud music that drowned out the live lion dance music as the Qilin processed around the front of the Council House. Then after a while, a red phoenix chariot appeared and on it rode a girl dressed as Guanyin. She was holding her vase and using her bamboo leaf thing (I’m sure there’s a correct name for it) to sprinkle about. There was also the God of Wealth, Caishen, in full costume about. After a few spins, she dismounted in front of the CH. In front of the CH there was a platform decorated with a fan of bamboo that was adorned with various ribbon, streamer and knotted cloth. From the ground to the platform there were attrached wide streamers in alternating colours. GY and CS climbed on the platform and sat on their thrones as if it was a shrine. Meanwhile, the Qilin was accompanied by flag wavers and fan dancers, who were escorted to in front of the ‘shrine’. GY now held a lotus bowl and CS unveilled his scroll (which said something about the Olympics). The platform began to rise and as it did, the streamers attached to it lengthed. When they reached the top, fireworks were set off and that was the end of it.
Now, this all harks back to some form of Chinese street festival ritual in China no doubt, but it was pleasing to experience it so close to home and with a British twist. Indeed, I wonder if such a spectical will happen again here in Blighty. Too bad that I didn’t know fully what was taking place today to turn up in Hanfu as this was a perfect opportunity to show off it in public. And I had no camera to take pictures of what happened.
Maybe next time, eh.