Experience the thrill of Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Blogged by @joehairie
For Hong Kong Tourism Board

Unique cultural festival returns in a whirlwind of parades, deities and sweet treats culminating in a dramatic climb up a “bun tower”. Featured Image: Every year, thousands of people descend upon the tiny island during the Cheung Chau Bun Festival to witness and experience the colorful Piu Sik Parade (Floating Colors Parade). 

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Kwok Kam Kee and Sanrio’s cartoon family collaborated to launch the “Lucky Bun Gift set” which contains “Lucky Buns” embossed with the image of Hello Kitty, Gudetama and PomPomPurin. There are four different flavors including the Original taste, Matcha, Ube and Lotus seed paste.

Every year, an array of buns, papier-mâché effigies of deities, pipers, drummers and lion dancers all converge on the small island of Cheung Chau on the fifth to the ninth days of the fourth lunar month (between April and May), forming one of the world’s quirkiest local festivals. This year, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, a traditional Taoist ritual, returns to mesmerise participants and onlookers from May 19 to May 23, 2018.

The week-long festival in Cheung Chau island consists of three main parts. First, a parade of deities, called piu sik (floating colors); secondly the honoring of the dead; lastly and also the most well-known, is the bun scrambling competition.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival 2015

Chinese characters “peace” and “safe”, are embossed on the traditional “Lucky Bun”, which symbolise health and prosperity.

The idea of the Piu Sik, also known as the floating colors parade, is to parade deities around the island to scare off evil spirits. As a modern-day version of villagers disguising themselves as gods to scare off spirits, these days it is a colourful sight for tourists, as children dress up as legendary deities or modern celebrities, and are held up high on stands to give the impression of ‘floating’ above the crowd. At the end of the parade, excited participants dash to the Pak Tai Temple, hoping to become the first to greet and honor the parade deities.

Following piu sik parade, the ceremony to honor the dead takes place at night. At the end of the ritual, villagers burn a large paper effigy of the King of the Ghosts, and then buns are distributed among everyone to share the good fortune. Also known as “Lucky Bun”, many people hope for peace, safety and good health by eating the buns from Cheung Chau.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival 2015

A child dressed up as one of the legendary deities is held up high on a stand to give the impression of ‘floating’ above the crowd during Piu Sik Parade (Floating Colors Parade) at Cheung Chau Bun Festival.

Made of rice flour with fillings such as lotus seed, red bean and sesame, the “Lucky Bub” buns are embossed with the Chinese characters – “peace” and “safe”, which symbolise health and prosperity. This year, Kwok Kam Kee, the classic “Lucky Bun” bakery in Cheung Chau that produce the buns will be collaborating with Sanrio’s cartoon family to launch three new flavours of “Lucky Bun”, including Matcha, Ube and Lotus seed paste. Starting from May 2018, a “Lucky Bun Gift Set” has been launched, where buns are being made in shapes of Hello Kitty, Gudetama and PomPomPurin with three new tastes accompanied by original taste.

During the midnight on the last day of the celebrations, the trademark of the festival, the “Bun Scrambling Competition” will be held where a 60-foot (14-metre) tower covered in imitation buns is set up near the Pak Tai Temple. Participants will climb hurriedly to collect as many buns as they can. The higher the bun, the greater the luck – which is why most race to the top to grab the luckiest buns for good fortune.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival 2015

People make offerings to the “Demon God” during one of the ceremonies of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.

The festival’s origin stem from a plague that devastated Cheung Chau in the late Qing dynasty (1644– 1911). The islanders built an altar in front of the Pak Tai Temple and petitioned the god Pak Tai to drive off the evil spirits surrounding the island, while parading statues of deities through the narrow lanes of their village. The plague ended after the performance of these Taoist rituals. 100 years later, the rites are still performed in a festival that has become an integral part of Hong Kong’s cultural heritage.

In addition to the lively event of Cheung Chau Bun Festival, Hong Kong will soon be celebrating other traditional festivals such as:

22 May – Birthday of Buddha
Organised by Buddha’s Light International Association of Hong Kong, the Celebration Carnival for Buddha’s Birthday attracts over 100,000 participants every year. Buddha Bathing Festival, is one of the most spiritual and unique festivals celebrated in Hong Kong. There will be a vegetarian food fair, carnival games, a flower show, arts and crafts, as well as the ‘Kid’s Paradise’. Visitors can take part in rituals such as bathing the Buddha, wish-making, meditating, and sutras calligraphy, which serve to purify one’s mind. One of the grandest ceremonies is will be held at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, home of the Big Buddha.

22 May – Birthday of Tam Kung
Revered among coastal communities, Tam Kung was said to be capable of forecasting the weather and healing the sick, and learned the secret of remaining forever young when he was just 12. So, his statues usually depict an 80-year-old man with the face of a child. Together with the Tin Hau Festival, Buddha’s Birthday, and the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, the Birthday of Tam Kung is a great chance to experience the rich culture and traditions of this modern enclave.

Be a part of the celebrations to witness the rich cultural heritage of Hong Kong. Please visit Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) website for more information.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival 2015

Visitors enjoying the dragon dance performance at the Piu Sik Parade during the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival.

 

About Hong Kong Tourism Board
The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is a government-subvented body founded on 1st April 2001 under the HKTB Ordinance. It has 15 branch offices and 5 representative offices around the world, and its primary mission is to market and promote Hong Kong as a travel destination worldwide and enhance visitors’ experiences once they have arrived.

 

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