Recreating Local Tradition: The Study of the Hang Hau Hakka Unicorn Dance in Hong Kong | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


This manuscript discusses the impact of global discourse on intangible cultural heritage, with a particular focus on the cultural manifestations and indigenous social groups. This is exemplified by the Hang Hau Hakka unicorn dance, a traditional socio-cultural practice that was from the Hakka community. This work illustrates how this cultural practice may impact on the anthropological approach to heritage. Since the late 19th century, the Hakka community in Hong Kong has been practising the unicorn dance, an auspicious cultural symbol, on celebratory occasions. The practice serves for sustaining Hakka community members. In 2013, the Hong Kong government identified the Hakka community’s unicorn dance as one of the heritage properties and proceeded the application of the fourth national list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in China under the auspices of UNESCO’s 2006 program. The application succeeded and eventually turned this practice into the cultural capital of the Hakka community in Hong Kong. Such cultural transmission has changed and re-created the socio-cultural meanings of those social traditions. By investigating how the Hakka community in Hong Kong today defines, preserves, transforms, and interprets the unicorn dance, this ethnographic research argues that emerging global discourse of intangible heritage has empowered non-dominant cultural groups like the Hakka community and preserved cultural diversity in local society.


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