Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Cheung Chau Bun Festival
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival, also known as the Cheung Chau Da Jiu Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival that takes place on the island of Cheung Chau in Hong Kong in April or May. It coincides with the local celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is the most famous Da Jiu festival. Da Jiu, or Dajiao, is a Taoist sacrificial ceremony performed every year to ask the Taoist deities for peace and prosperity in the area. Such festivals are held by many rural communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and some provinces in mainland China, but it is the Cheung Chau Bun Festival that has the most public exposure and attracts tens of thousands of local and overseas tourists.

The festival dates back to the 18th century. According to its origin story, the island of Cheung Chau was once infiltrated by pirates and devastated by a plague. Local fishermen brought an image of the martial deity Pak Tai (also known as Heidi) and paraded it through the village. Pak Tai drove away the evil spirits and the island began to prosper again.

The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is held on and around Buddha’s birthday (the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese calendar). For three days, the entire island goes vegetarian. Most of the Cheung Chau’s businesses, including even the local McDonald’s, adhere to this tradition and take meat off their menus.

One of the festival’s main highlights is the fascinating parade of floats. Led by an image of Pak Tai, it features traditional lion dance and dragon dance, musicians loudly beating drums and gongs to chase away evil spirits, and children dressed as legendary and modern heroes.

Another key event of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival is bun snatching. For the duration of the festival, three giant “Bun Towers” (or “Bun Mountains”) are installed in front of Pak Tai Temple. These are 60-feet bamboo towers covered with traditional Chinese buns that gave the festival its name. Historically, young men would race up the towers to snatch the buns. The higher the bun, the more luck it was supposed to bring to the person who snatched it and his family.

Other events and activities held during the festival include Chinese operas and religious services dedicated to the deities Pak Tai, Tin Hau (also known as Mazu or Lin Mo Niang), Guan Yin and Hung Hsing. The festival culminates with the burning of a paper effigy of the King of the Ghosts. The remaining buns are distributed to the villagers who continue to celebrate late into the night.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Photo: Scott Edmunds




Related Articles