Cheung Chau Bun Festival Hong Kong

When visiting Hong Kong you should really try to visit some of the outlying islands to see an unhurried aspect of Hong Kong life.

Cheung Chau (meaning “long island” in Cantonese) is one of the most popular of all the outlying islands. Shaped like a dumbbell, it is about a 30-55-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong’s Central District.

Cheung Chau is a picturesque island with a waterfront that bustles with activity. There are butcher shops and vendors selling fresh fish, shellfish, fruit and vegetables. The small local restaurants and food stalls do a brisk trade on the weekend. Of interest is the Cheung Chau Complex on the main road (Tai Hing Tai Road), part government offices and part wet market where you can pick up fresh seafood and have it cooked for you at a nearby restaurant.

Around about May each year, Cheung Chau becomes very busy as it then they celebrate the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.

This activity has been practised for more than 100 years. Cheung Chau was devastated by a plague in the late Qing dynasty. Local residents set up a sacrificial altar in front of Pak Tai Temple to pray to the god, Pak Tai, to drive off evil spirits. The residents even paraded the deity statues through the village lanes. The plague ended after performance of the ritual. Since then, residents on Cheung Chau have organised a Bun Festival every year to express thanks to the god for blessing and protecting them. With residents’ participation every year, the ritual was passed down through the generations. The festival also provides a platform for residents to perform their folk craft, such as making paper-mache effigies of deities, setting up the bamboo scaffolding of the Bun Mountain, and making handmade buns in     preparation for the Bun Festival. This is accompanied by folk performing arts like Taoist rituals and music, a parade, lion dances, qilin dances and drum beating. The elderly residents participate in this festive activity with their children, preserving it from one generation to the next. In recent years, the Jiao-festival was held from the 5th to 8th day of the Fourth Lunar Month.

The weeklong festival climaxes with a large, carnival-like street procession featuring costumed children on stilts held aloft above the crowd, lion dances and other colourful participants. The parade winds its way through the narrow streets to the grounds near the Pak Tai Temple, which are dominated by enormous bamboo towers studded with sweet white buns, and where the main festivities take place. At midnight, athletes scramble up one of the towers in a contest to grab the top-most ‘luckiest’ ones.

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