Taiwan 2017: A Folk Festival

Daoism and Buddhism are the most prominent faiths in Sanyi. The Christian church does have a presence here, especially involving in child care, but it is not what brings people together.

A few days ago I heard suonas, gongs and drums going through the streets, and I came out to a parade of trucks loaded with palanquins carrying Daoist deities. Songs were also played from speakers, and oddly enough one of them was “In the End” by Linkin Park. I followed the vehicles to a place that had been blocked off for the festival. Citizens of Sanyi stood under tents, between rows of tables piled with offerings. A group of female drummers played on a raised platform in a truck, the incense was set on fire, and the palanquins were set down to face the people.

Two silk-clothed statues were at each side of the palanquins, one with a blue head, and one with a red head. Masked dancers spun through the crowd, some of which were sporting large sunglasses and Mickey Mouse hands. Spirit money meant for burning fluttered from them down the street. It was Mazu’s birthday, the goddess of fishermen and sailors.

All the performers performed facing the deities, often with their backs to their human onlookers. A group of young men played the drums, two sets of young lion dancers performed light acrobatics, and three face painted soldiers with tusks moved and posed in formation. After this I returned to my grandmother’s house for the lunch I had abandoned.

There is a lot to festival that I don’t know about as an outsider to this community and cultural context. It has a tradition that has been going on since my mother was a girl, and is also ever evolving with the times. It is colorful and beautiful and I’m glad I got to to see it.

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