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Folk Activities and Events
Temples, Gongs and Drums-Tainan’s Folk
The Beehive Rockets in Yenshui
Wang-chuan Rite in Jiali

■ Culture and History Researcher / Huang Wen-bo

     Drums bang, firecrackers burst out, temple festivals start and a local story begins.... The real life in Tainan takes place in temples and in temple festivals where gangs, drums and firecrackers are everywhere. These bits and pieces of temple festivals are part of our lives and you can experience them.
     People in Tainan worked on their lands and were devoted to farming; thus they established a profound connection with this land. People were also living along the coast so that they had to fish and they had a great attachment to the ocean. In order to ask for good weather and to have a stable life, a philosophy of worshiping gods in spring and in winter appeared. There are also pilgrimages, to ask for water, and cross the fi re on gods’ anniversary. For the major festivals, there are jianchiao, yixiang, salvation and burning Wangchuan. Again and again, these become part of our lives, and of our culture.
     There are diverse cultures in Tainan and thriving temple festivals are the best representatives. From the beginning to the end of the year, from spring to fall, there are different types of temple festivals, different kinds of fun and these are just like successive fi lm scenes running over and over.
     At the beginning of the year, the welcome Happy God ceremony of the Mazu Temple in Luermen, Welcome Spring cow of the Shengmu Temple in Tucheng, shows of historical story of Chiwangfu in Madou Haipu, the Welcome Buddha Ceremony of the Bixuang Temple in Dongshang and the beehive rockets in old streets of Yanshui, celebrations come one after the other. Then, there are Buddha offering incense ceremony of Chishang Longhu Yang in Liujia, Shangbaijiao and cross the fire of Ciji Temple in Xuejia, Dadaogong on inspection tour in 16 Laio of Taijian, and the Bathing the Buddha Festival in Beihe’s Daxiang Temple and in many other temples; then Wangye offering incense in Daitianfu of Madou and Nankunshen, the Celebrating 16 years old Ceremony of Anping and of Tailong Temple. All these celebrations reveal a charming interaction scene between people and gods. In between there is the Wangchuang Festival which takes place once every three years in Jintang Temple of Jiali, Changxing Temple of Anding and Zhenhu Temple of Sucuo Anding, as well as Qingqn Temple of Xigang. In addition, there are yixiang and pilgrimage of temples in Jiali, Madou, Xigang and Tuchengzai. We should not forget the Pingpu rites in Beitouyang, Jibeishua, Fangzaitien and Toushe. These diverse celebrations become the folk “Image of Tainan.”
     The pace of modernization perhaps did not go too fast in Tainan; or perhaps the effect of mass rural life did not fully destroy the relationship between man and land. Therefore we can still have the opportunity to see, and experience these ancestral customs. In the meantime, we also want to manage and to extend these intangible cultural assets. Tainan was established as the "cultural capital", no matter what kind of faiths or ritual activities, we today still have their tangible forms and these are our pride.
     The commencement of temple festivals led to the design of ceremonies and to the composition of parades. A set of ceremonies or rituals for people to communicate with Gods enrich the connotation of temple festivals and allow them to have more cultural meanings. For example, in the yixiang ceremony of Jiali and Xigang the step “Receiving the order- returning the order” alone shows the profound details of Tainan’s culture of folk beliefs. Moreover, the Mazu Temple in Luermen even modernized the traditional rituals and use music and dances to embellish the rites. By doing so, people in Tainan developed the so-called "new temple festivals culture" or "Renaissance of fi shing village". As for the compositions of parades, they allow temple festivals to be more dynamic and more enjoyable. Whether is it the Centipede Parade, Sung Chiang Battle Array, Golden Lion Parade, White crane Parade and Eight Generals, or Stilts parade, Dancing Drum, Bullfi ghting Parade and Chegu parade, or even the rare Wooden Horse Parade, Aquatic Parade, Tai Ping Ge or Tianzi Mensheng , all can be seen in different kinds of temple festivals in Tainan. We fi nd the vitality and enthusiasm of people to be the base of the society and many of these activities or parades were registered as “folk activities of the city”or “traditional art of the city” of which some even were categorized as
important folk activity of the country, such as the Xigang Zaixiang.
     Temple festivals reveal another aspect of these activities: healthy interaction between different social classes. The contact among gods, the communication among people, exchanges among temples or even the getting together between villagers all reflect the deconstruction and restructuring of social relations. A belief or a temple festival ritual possesses its own value and meaning. Taking the most fl ourishing Wang-chuan belief in Tainan area, given that the cost of a Wang-chuan can be of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, so burning the Wang-chuan at the end of the ceremony would be considered as a waste.
     Is burning the Wang-chuan really a waste? This is a purely economic thinking. Generally, when a Wang-chuan Festival
is held, it is usually a large scale local event. In spite of its historical background and traditional culture’s connotation, from the preparation to the completion it requires almost a total mobilization of people of the area. This ceremony does cost some money, but there are many positive features, such as the interaction among participants, amusement in people's lives, building interpersonal relationships, return of people who traveled afar or feasts to treat relatives and friends. In the meantime, it also involves political, economic, cultural and leisure activities. During the whole process, many people get involved and make efforts and contributions, all these allow believers to fi nd their identities and their niche in a community.
     Tainan county and city were finally reunified on December 25, 2010 after 65 years of separation and formed a big Tainan. This reunification not only allows temple festivals or folk rituals to be extended, but also permit cultural and creative or artistic tourism to expand. While it is about Tainan, people do not have to write Nanying (county) or Fucheng (city) anymore, and the dispute of historical status will also not be necessary. People from big Tainan will have a broader vision and closer contact with one another. In the meantime, this will also allow cultural diversity and richness to flourish.
     Drums bang, firecrackers burst out, temple festivals start and a local story begins...How fortunate we are to live right in the middle of it. We are impregnated by thisbeautiful city where folk activities are prospering around us.