Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jiao Festival

The hapless chicken, who later escaped, bringing the whole proceedings to a halt!

A deity

The Lion head ready for the dance

Deity guarding the main altar

The duck leads the parade, with a red cloth ried to it's legs. Next comes the dragon and the chicken brings up the rear.

I had a great day out at the Jiao Festival in Sai Kung. It's a Daoist ritual called "Pacifying the dragon" and it takes place only once every thirty years. It's very much a local event for the Hakka families in the village, so it was a great privilege for our group of 20 women to be able to witness it first hand. There are lots of excellent photos on my facebook page, taken by my friend, who is a much better photographer than I am! Anyway I'll add a few of my own here too. We were also the subject of many photographs as locals wanted to capture the event. Few if any white Westerners get to witness such an ancient and rare ritual.
Our day started with a visit to the temple, still covered in red paper shreds from the night before's firecrackers. Then we watched as the various components of the parade were assembled; a duck to lead, a lion, a chicken at the end, a "Man of fortune" bearing a clay urn containing grain, which is buried on the hillside to pacify the dragon. We all followed the parade up the steep hill behind the village. After some 20 minutes of steady climbing, the parade stopped. We were told it was because the leaders had reached the burial ground and women were not allowed there. True enough, but why then so many men still in the queue? Next followed fantic calling down the hillside, phone calls back down to the village and my limited Cantonese picked up the word "gai" which means chicken. A local lass explained that to everyone's consternation, the chicken had escaped into the undergrowth and frantic efforts were underway to procure another live chicken for the ritual to continue.We all decided at this point we should descend, as we wouldn't be permitted to progress much further anyway. Also, we were concerned for the welfare of the duck, suspecting it was about to meet a messy end as part of the ritual. As we neared the village, there were more frantic shouts and we had to stand aside to make way for a young man ascending at speed...clutching another chicken! We spent the rest of the day wandering round the village with our very knowdgeable guides, then we went out to the main road to await the parade's descent. Their approach was heralded by loud drums and gongs, then much to our relief, the duck,still alive but looking somewhat subdued, the lion and bringing up the rear, not one but two chickens! The original one had been captured! After more photocalls, we headed home. What a terrific experience!

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