1930s Royal Dragons, Lions, Tigers and ... a centipede
When: At first glance this looks very similar to photo #4 in the Gwulo book:
We identified that was taken in May 1935, showing part the celebrations for King George V's silver jubilee. However the photo of the dragon was sold with the title "Celebrating The Coronation", which means it was taken two years later, in May 1937.
Who: The two photos bracket a tumultuous time for Britain's royalty, with three different British kings in that two-year period. It started with King George V, and his silver jubilee. He was aged 69, but already in poor health. His health declined further in January 1936, and he died that month.
His elder son Edward was next in line to the throne, and became King Edward VIII. Edward's coronation was announced for the following year, May 1937, but never actually happened. When he made clear his plan to marry Wallis Simpson, he ran into strong opposition from the British church and government, who were against him marrying a divorced woman. The opposition was so strong that he had to choose between the marriage and the crown. He chose marriage and abdicated in December 1936. He was king for less than a year.
Next in line to the throne was George V's second son, Prince Albert. He never expected to become king, and struggled with public appearances due to a severe stammer (the subject of the movie, The King's Speech). But despite his reluctance he accepted the crown and a new name, becoming King George VI.
So there was still a coronation in May 1937, but it was King George VI that was crowned, not King Edward VIII as originally planned.
Where: There are tram lines glinting in the main photo. Does anyone recognise the location? Here are some of the business names on the buildings in the background, in case they can help.
What: The next day's newspaper, (Hong Kong Daily Press, 1937-05-13) has a good writeup of the procession. I've reproduced it below, adding in photos where available.
Thousands Throng Streets
To See Spectacle
THREE MILES IN LENGTH
Tremendous crowds of visitors thronged the streets to watch the Chinese Procession, which has been organized under the energetic and tireless supervision of the members of the Chinese Coronation Sub-committee, in celebration of the Coronation of His Majesty King George VI.
The Procession started from Belchers Street, Kennedy Town yesterday at 11 a.m., and ended by returning to Catchick Street at about 5.15 p.m.
The verandahs and balconies on both sides of roads and streets, along the route were crammed to capacity, and the streets were thronged with sightseers, all eager to secure good positions to view the interesting sights of the Procession.
Even before the Procession arrived, all vantage points along the route were filled with eager waiting crowds, standing and sitting on benches, and anything that enabled them to obtain a sight of the passing events. Many cameramen were observed along the route taking, photographs of the Procession.
The Procession, which was about three miles in length, was led by twenty members of the Chinese Coronation Sub-Committee, and headed by the smart brass band of the Aberdeen Industrial School (Salesian Institute), members of the Police motor section, who opened the way and controlled the traffic, so as to prevent “jams.”
Both sides of the roads were patrolled by the members of the Chinese Police Reserve, and the St. John Ambulance Brigade, and an army of Boy Scouts, whereby perfect discipline and order were maintained along the whole route.
The members of the Chinese Coronation Sub-Committee are to be congratulated for their splendid efforts in presenting such a brilliant show, which will long be remembered and go down in the annals of the history of the Colony as a wonderfully gracious tribute to Their Majesties The King and Queen from the Chinese community of the Colony.
With so much to see and write about in connection with the biggest and grandest Procession that has ever taken place in the Colony, surpassing in beauty and gorgeousness, everything that has been seen in Hong Kong and the Far East, it is extremely difficult where to begin, but, pride of place must certainly be given to the monster dragons.
The dragons were five in number a golden one, a silver one, an enamelled one,and two gauze, which are supposed to bring good luck and prosperity to the Colony. Each was about three hundred feet in length, with "crews” of about two hundred men who were all dressed in coloured silks and satins or gala attire.
On account of the great length and weight of these monster dragons, the men had to work in shifts, and heralded by rolling drums and the blowing of horns, as the dragons twisted and turned along the streets, now raising their monster heads, now lowering them as they followed the movements of their "pearl” leaders, they were a most marvellous sight to behold!
At times the dragons were so manipulated by the “crews,” that they resembled huge glittering serpents, as they heaved and glided, along in their undulating passage through the streets of the City.
Following the monster dragons came the gamboling militant lions with their snappy movements and fierce-looking faces, and some with white whiskers, emblematic, of good luck and prosperity.
There were five in all, and as they pranced through the streets tossing their proud heads up and down, and from side to side, snapping their big whiskered Jaws in a most docile manner, they attracted quite a deal of attention from the spectators, and with the stirring drums loudly beating and, gongs clashing they presented a most, exciting and impressive display, which young and old appeared to thoroughly enjoy.
The two tigers manipulated by their Hainan “fighting crews" created much interest, as they were quite new to the Colony. They were over ten feet in length, and manipulated by a "crew” of fifty men each, dressed in their quaint Hainan costumes.
Each tiger was shown in action against a band of "boxers.” armed with tridents, spears, and other war-like weapons, who were represented as being successful in rescuing a boy from the tiger’s jaws!
A GIANT CENTIPEDE
The two hundred feet fearsome-looking flesh coloured centipede, consisting of thirty-two sections, with green feet and red tail, will be manipulated by a "crew” of about three [sic. I guess it should be three hundred] men in to-night’s Lantern Procession. It is the special contribution of the Chiuchow (Swatow) Merchants Guild, who wish to add something new to the usual display of dragons and lions. This is the first time that a giant centipede has been introduced into a Chinese Procession in Hong Kong.
This giant centipede will, no doubt, attract considerable interest, owing to its novelty, and the spectators will be delighted with its strange awesome movements.
The tableaux were rich in variety, as well as female pulchritude, and were contributed by the different trade commercial associations and market guilds, the floats and tableaux being results of special work by the leading factories in Kowloon.
In the Procession yesterday there were also gorgeous spectacular tableaux and floats, and gaily caparisoned ponies, on which rode beautiful little girls dressed in silks and satins, representing popular events in China's history and social customs.
Many stilt walkers were seen in the Procession, being made up to represent famous personalities in ancient Chinese history and mythology wearing the curious and gorgeous costumes of the time.
There were also those in masks, representing characters of modern times, and also humorous groups of clown and actors dressed up in grotesque costumes to attract and amuse the sightseers by their absurd attire and antics.
Many beautiful decorated and embroidered coloured silk standards were also displayed in the Procession, which represented each business association and market guild.
BANDS OF MUSICIANS
At intervals in the Procession were bands of Chinese musicians, imported purposely from Canton and other places for the Coronation celebrations. The band of musicians from Chiuchow (Swatow) is considered to be the best of all, and consisted of a large number of men. It is believed to be the largest band of its kind ever assembled in any one show.
Other interesting items included in the Procession were the displays of wonderful plastic imitation of fruits, flowers, curios etc. carried on stands, representing Chinese expertness in arts and craft,
This colossal Chinese Procession, which took at least two hours to pass at any one point, will continue for two more days, to-day and to-morrow.
A MAGNIFICENT SHOW
On the whole, the Chinese Procession was a magnificent show, and the best of its kind ever seen in the colony, and we extend our heartiest congratulations to the Chinese community for having provided Hong Kong with such a magnificent and gorgeous spectacle.
It is understood that the three days and two nights processions and celebrations have cost the Chinese community over $200,000, and since all classes, high and low have contributed their share through the general increase, of ten to twenty percent in food and market prices, it proves the splendid feelings of friendship and loyalty of the Chinese of the whole Colony.
The following were the eleven groups of the business associations and market guilds, which took part in yesterday's Chinese Day Procession:
Group 1: Meat Guild; Group 2: Fruit and Vegetable Guild; Group 3: Fukien Commercial and Industrial Association; Group 5: Castle and Sheep Guild; Group 5: Chiu-chow (Swatow) Commercial and Industrial Association; Group 6: Piece Goods Guild; Group 7: Pawn Brokers Guild; Group 8: Knitting and Weaving Association: Group 9: Poon Yue Commercial and Industrial Association, Messrs. Kwong Sang Hong and Co,. Ltd., and the Kam Yuk Lau "Joss Store;" Group 10: Hainan Commercial and Industrial Association and Group 11: Fish Monger Guild.
AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE
The procession made its way into Government House and gave a display in the grounds for the benefit of His Excellency the Officer Administering the Government, Mr. N. L. Smith, C.M.G., and party.
The Golden Dragon was the first to enter the grounds and it twisted and twirled its way up and down the ground, the head now, high up, now low, to the accompaniment of Chinese music provided by a very enthusiastic band.
The tableaux aroused the greatest admiration while the humorous side of the procession, those people who strut about it on stilts in their picturesque and grotesque dresses, caused a good deal of amusement.
As each section of the procession completed its own particular part of the display, it "marched past" the terrace of Government House where His Excellency bowed acknowledgment to their salutations.
The transformation of the Colony into a fairyland of multicoloured lights from the sea to the summit of the Peak commanding a glorious view of a dreamlike harbour with all Naval and merchant ships outlined in a myriad of lights, while bouquets of red, white and blue rockets soaring high into the air, accompanied by searchlight and nightflying displays by illuminated aircraft together with set fireworks pieces turning the sea into rainbow colours, was a pageant of historical splendour, surpassing in beauty and magnificence anything that has been seen in Hong Kong and the Far East.
The praya was adorned with gorgeous and glittering lights which outlined all the buildings from V.R.C. to the P. and O. Building.
The centre of attraction lay in Statue Square which was among the most effective displays. Besides being lighted itself, it was surrounded on three sides by floodlit buildings. The most, attractive was the gigantic edifice of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, surmounted on the roof of which were two magnificent crowns, brilliantly illuminated with coloured electric bulbs which looked like sparkling gems.
The boundary lines of the Naval Yard was attractively illuminated, while a replica of the Admiralty House facade was built at the corner of Murray and Queen’s Roads.
An imposing sign, with a crown, and the words, “Cuidich’n Righ,” on an impressive background, Just outside the Officers’ Mess of the Seaforth Highlanders, Murray Barracks, at the corner of Garden Road, facing the cricket ground, was gaily illuminated with coloured lamps.
A colossal “God save The King” on May Road was radiantly illuminated. This was visible from Kowloon.
The triumphal arches or Chinese ”pai laus," symbolical of the glories of an ancient civilisation, which were erected in all the important centres of the city, gave a most imposing effect when floodlit.
The streets were gay with gorgeous settings, enhanced by lights.
Crowds thronged the main centres of attraction.
The main thoroughfares were but an endless trail of humanity, while buses, tram-cars and ferries were packed to capacity.
Kowloon was also gaily illuminated. Signal Hill, the Peninsula Hotel, Railway Station, Star Ferry and Police piers, Holt's Wharf, the new Magistracy, Kowloon Motor Bus Company and many clubs contributed to the brilliance.
At 11 p.m. bouquets of red, white and blue rockets from H.M. ships Eagle, Dainty, Diana, Diomede and Westcott, were fired into the air. Like shooting stars, they made the sky glow with gay colours, presenting scenes or dazzling wonder.
Dragons, lions and tigers all sound suitably regal, but the centipede? I suppose cockroaches would have been worse, but a centipede still seems an odd choice. Has anyone seen any photos of it?
Hopefully this reaches you in time to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Bill Griffiths also asked to be remembered to friends he's met here, and sends out an extra "Merry Christmas" to us all.
Related: See more photos of Hong Kong's royal celebrations:
Book Update: My Christmas present is that we've passed the 600 mark - the number of copies sold now stands at 602.
If you're in Hong Kong, there's also a new way to get your hands on a copy, as the Gwulo book is now available to buy at Bookazine's stores around town.
If you've read the book and you're a member of Goodreads, please could you help me by adding a rating / review on the book's Goodreads page?
New on Gwulo:
If you can leave a comment with any more information about these, it will be gratefully received.
Some of the new photos added:
Click to see all recently added photos.