Cheung Chau Bun Festival

(redirected from Bun Scrambling Festival)
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Cheung Chau Bun Festival

April-May; date decided by divination; usually about eight days between the end of third lunar month and 10th day of fourth lunar month
This festival is one of the most spectacular events in Hong Kong, celebrated only on Cheung Chau (which means "Long Island" in Chinese), one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong. It is believed that restless ghosts roam the island during the eight-day festival. Some believe they are the spirits of islanders massacred by 19th-century pirates. Others claim they are people who died of a plague in the early 20th century or that they are spirits of people whose remains were disturbed by people building new houses.
Three bamboo-and-paper towers, up to about 60 feet high and covered with sweet pink and white buns, are dedicated to the spirits and intended to placate them. People burn paper replicas of houses, cars, and money. The buns placed highest in the towers traditionally are held to be the luckiest, and people used to climb up the towers in a race to get them. But after a serious accident in 1978, the buns now are passed down the towers.
At the island's Pak Tai Temple, rites are held to honor Pak Tai, known as a Taoist king of the Dark Heaven or the Underworld. He is worshipped as a god of the sea who defeated a demon king and the king's allies, a tortoise and a serpent. The temple holds many small wooden statues of Pak Tai, all with a tortoise under one foot and a serpent under the other.
To pay homage to the animals and fish who serve as residents' food, only vegetarian dishes are served during the festival, and some people also make offerings to the animals' spirits.
In the highlight of the festival, the images of the temple gods are carried in a procession of lion and dragon dancers and children aged about five to eight, who are costumed as legendary Chinese figures. These children seem to float above the procession, but in reality they are held up by poles to which they are attached as adults carry them through the streets.
CONTACTS:
Hong Kong Tourism Board
115 E. 54th St., 2nd Fl.
New York, NY 10022
212-421-3382; fax: 212-421-8428
www.discoverhongkong.com
Cheung Chau Bun Festival
CHEUNGCHAU.ORG
China
www.cheungchau.org
SOURCES:
BkHolWrld-1986, May 25
GdWrldFest-1985, p. 105
IntlThFolk-1979, p. 197
WildPlanet-1995, p. 309