Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

The Lunar New Year’s end is marked by a spectacular display of fervor and fireworks aimed directly at a god of fortune. Donning only red shorts and protective eyewear, four brave men carry a palanquin bearing the deity through a barrage of firecrackers in the celebration known as “The Bombing of Master Han Dan.” This event, steeped in history, has been a staple in the northwestern Miaoli county’s Zhunan township for over a century.

Chen Chien-long, a leader in the temple ritual committee organizing the festival, explains that the practice of bombarding a god with firecrackers originated after a plague. Legend has it that Master Han Dan descended from the heavens and instructed the people to combat the plague with firecrackers. Additionally, the explosions of firecrackers were believed to provide warmth to Master Han Dan, who was said to fear the cold weather.

The ritual is not only a spectacle but also a symbol of prosperity. Participants believe that bombarding Master Han Dan with firecrackers brings about good fortune. Chen Chien-long emphasizes, “The more we bomb him with firecrackers, the more prosperous we will be.”

The celebration typically takes place on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, drawing hundreds of spectators who witness the spectacle from a safe distance. Event officials, dressed in yellow with protective coverings, are responsible for igniting and launching the firecrackers at the procession.

At the heart of the event are the devoted participants who carry the palanquin, adorned with green fronds, and sweep away evil spirits with brooms. Chao Jen-hao, one of the carriers, undergoes a period of purification before the event, abstaining from vices and consuming a vegetarian diet for three days. Despite the risks, he expresses unwavering dedication, stating, “As long as my heart is with Master Han Dan, everything will be all right.”

However, for 63-year-old Lien Chong-liang, who has participated in the procession for 15 years, the experience is akin to “being in a gun battle.” Despite the inherent dangers, he remains fearless, emphasizing that flesh wounds are a normal occurrence and a small price to pay for the honor of participating in this revered tradition.

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