Taipei, A traditional Hakka event known as “Gongpaocheng” (攻炮城), where worshippers throw firecrackers, will be canceled in Miaoli County due to COVID-19, an organizer said Friday.
Kuo Chin-kuo (郭金國), who heads the committee at Cihyun Temple which hosts the annual event in Houlong Township, said this will be the first time in 37 years it has not been held.
The decision to cancel the event was finalized by committee members in view of public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kuo explained.
Gongpaocheng, which translates as “storming the castle” in English, is a Hakka event held during the Lantern Festival, a Chinese festivity celebrated on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar.
Held every year at Cihyun Temple, participants try to throw firecrackers into a miniature castle hung at the end of a three-meter long bamboo pole and the activity continues until a firecracker explodes inside the castle.
The original intent of Gongpaocheng was to ward off evil spirits and expel bad luck. Today, the ancient festival is more of a game played during the lantern festival, where anyone is welcome to participate and try and win a prize.
The event can be traced back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), when worshippers prayed at Cihyun Temple for the Goddess Mazu to help eradicate a plague.
According to the county’s Culture and Tourism Bureau, Gongpaocheng began in Houlong during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, but was thereafter cancelled and only revived in 1984, since when it has been held every year.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel