Elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage

    Tam Kong Celebrations






    Introduction:

    Tam Kong is a deity in Taoist beliefs, who is revered as an influential sea deity in the coastal areas of southern China, being particularly worshipped by fishermen as their patron deity. The beliefs of Tam Kong are a long standing tradition in Macao and there are many local temples dedicated to this deity, including the Tam Kong Temple in Coloane, which is the only temple in Macao dedicated exclusively to Tam Kong, receiving a large number of worshippers who go there in pilgrimage. Tam Kong Celebrations are observed every year on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month, constituting a grand annual feast of Coloane. For the occasion and in order to fulfil the traditional devotional Cantonese opera performances for deities, it’s a custom to built a bamboo stage in front of the temple, which is a tradition that in itself also has a long history and is one of the largest events of this type in Macao.

     

    Conservation Status:

    Among all the temples dedicated to Tam Kong in Macao, the Tam Kong Temple of Coloane is the only one that still hosts large-scale annual celebrations on this occasion. During the Tam Kong Celebrations each year, the residents of Coloane organize the celebration activities, observe traditions including incense burning, praying for blessings, parade of dragon and lion dances and several other veneration events. In the afternoon, there are other festive activities, including an important parade, the so-called Piu Sik procession, a beer festival and the Poon Choi banquet (a traditional feast in which the dish is served in a big wooden basin at each table)..The devotional Cantonese opera performances for deities can be traced back to the early 20th century. In recent years, the scale of the celebrations has been expanding to a larger scale, with the inhabitants and their family members of Coloane getting together and fraternizing.

     

    Heritage Value:

    Tam Kong Celebrations are an important traditional folk event that is also expressive about the folk customs of the residents of Coloane, as well as the rituals and traditions that are associated with the beliefs and customs of Tam Kong. The transmission of these traditions is also representative about the sperseverance of Taoist beliefs and the folk culture of the coastal areas of southern China. These characteristic customs and activities also have significant value for the study of local folk culture.


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