Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nantzu Baosheng Dadi Festival 2008 楠梓保生大帝慶典

This weekend, there was yet another festival. They never stop! It's great!

This time, it was the Nantzu Baosheng Dadi Festival 2008 楠梓保生大帝慶典 celebrating the birthday of Baosheng Dadi, or the Great Emperor Who Preserves Life, also known as the God of Medicine.

Much smaller than Mazu, but only slightly less explosive, this festival had a few things I had never seen before.

Chicken Dance

Chicken sacrifice. A man danced with a chicken after dipping it's head in something at the altar. Then, when he finished his dance, he threw the chicken as hard as he could under the altar. The chicken was twitching for a while until they took it away. I probably ate it later.


There are always dragon dances at festivals. However, this time there was a cow dance, the funniest thing I have ever seen at a festival. These "cows" came in and the 2 boys had to control them. The boys would beat them to herd them but the "cows" were crazy and kept running and plowing into the crowd. They even plowed the main priest.

We were even offered dinner by the temple staff and got to really mingle with the local crew.

Here are my 5 fave shots from the day. More are here.

Nantzu Baosheng Dadi Festival 2008 楠梓保生大帝慶典

Nantzu Baosheng Dadi Festival 2008

Nantzu Baosheng Dadi Festival 2008
Feather from priest's hat

Nantzu Baosheng Dadi Festival 2008
Some of the local crew

Tang-Ki 童乩
Tang-Ki 童乩

More here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival

Taiwan's Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival is believed to be one of the three largest religious festivals in the world. Mazu (媽祖) is the Goddess of the Sea. More than 1 million people see Mazu (媽祖) during her 8 day, 300km roundtrip pilgrimage from Dajia to Hsingang in Jiayi county. She visits more than 80 temples along the way.

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

Last weekend I had the chance to attend this festival. I arrived in Changhua in the afternoon and already the first group of pilgrims were setting up tents for the night. As soon as it got dark, the action began. Craig Ferguson and I followed the floats we saw until we got to the parade. After rounding a corner we ran right into a full blown Taiwanese parade full of colorful costumes, giant gods walking around, shrines and TONS of fireworks.

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

Now, there are no safety rules in Taiwan when it comes to fireworks. That means that there are literally fireworks going off all around you. Mortars were going off less than a meter away from me, rockets buzzing around everywhere and mountains of firecrackers making mushroom clouds. This is the way fireworks were meant to be enjoyed. Red, White and Boom is for amateurs.

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

After weaving in and around performers, we learned that there were actually 2 parades at once, going in opposite directions. Then we saw a third one, they were just going around in random directions waiting for Mazu (媽祖).

After shooting for a couple of hours I looked at the sky, and in the distance I saw a massive amount of flashes from explosions. It looked like the city was being blown up.

Mazu (媽祖) had arrived.

We headed off in that direction until we came up on a crowd lined up on the street. It is good luck to crawl under a god and these people were waiting to crawl under Mazu (媽祖). We moved forward until the street blew up again, I'm glad I had earplugs. Then, out of the smoke, came Mazu's (媽祖) umbrella, followed by Mazu (媽祖) herself. The crowd surged forward to crawl under Mazu (媽祖) and the police struggled to maintain order. I made it right up to Mazu (媽祖) but her shrine was covered and I couldn't actually see her.

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

I followed her until I had to catch the train home. But there were no trains until 2am. Apparently, I had read the schedule wrong. So, with 3 hours to wait, I headed back into the action.

Mazu (媽祖) was downtown by this time, and it seemed the city was being leveled. The amount of fireworks at this time was insane! I was showered with ash, hit by stray rockets and almost killed by mortars. It was a BLAST! lol.

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

Once again, I got right up to Mazu (媽祖) and as I often do here in Taiwan, I found myself inside the entourage. For the next 2 hours I walked with the entourage shooting away. As the night went on, and because Mazu (媽祖) was behind schedule, the parade got faster and faster. On the final stretch, to get to the temple so Mazu (媽祖) could rest, the handlers were actually running.

...and they ran into a roadblock. Ahead was another god doing his thing and the Mazu (媽祖) people began to yell at them to move. Aaaaaaaaand the other group was like,


Now, the scene was getting ugly, the Mazu (媽祖) people didn't stop and ran right into the other entourage. I was ready to see a fight. Fights are common during the Mazu (媽祖) festival between rival groups as they fight over who will carry Mazu (媽祖).

Finally, without visible bloodshed, things were sorted out and Mazu (媽祖) made it to her home for the night where I was almost crushed by the crowd trying to see her being removed from her chair and put to rest in the temple.

Dajia Mazu (大甲媽祖) Festival 2008

With a loud cheer, Mazu (媽祖) was resting and the crowd started to disperse, but other gods were still partying in the distance. I headed to the station to wait for the train and finally made it home at 6am.

This was the best festival I have seen so far. It is definitely a must see. There weren't many foreigners there and the feel was definitely local. I have more pictures here.