2014 Taiwan Lantern Festival
Yanshuei (Yanshui) Beehive Fireworks Festival
The “Yanshuei (Yanshui) Beehive Fireworks” is ranked as the third largest folk celebration in the world and is one of the most representative religious events in all of Taiwan. With hundreds of thousands of firecrackers all going off at the same time, it is a cacophony like hundreds of thousands of bees streaming out of their hives. The event attracts huge numbers of onlookers every year and is paired with the “Pingxi Sky Lanterns” in describing Lantern Festival activities: “Sky lanterns in the north, beehive fireworks in the south.” Tradition has it that the “beehive fireworks” originated in July/August, 1885 as a cholera epidemic raged in the streets of Yanshuei. Owing to the underdeveloped state of medicine at the time, victims of the disease multiplied daily and the local population lived in fear, praying to Guan Di, the god of war, to bring an end to this calamity and save them.
Thus on Lantern Festival evening, Guan Di appointed General Zhou Cang as his guide, with Guan Di’s palanquin bringing up the rear. Following the palanquin were multitudes of the faithful setting off firecrackers along the road, winding their way throughout the city until the break of dawn, ridding themselves of this plague in one fell swoop. From that time onward, future generations followed this precedent, asking Guan Di to patrol the streets on the evening of the Lantern Festival. The “Yanshuei Beehive Fireworks” event consists of a circuit around the outskirts of the town by palanquins, each symbolically armed to the teeth, with thousands of local inhabitants and visitors clustered around them as they slowly wind their way through the streets. When the line of palanquins comes up to the residential gate of a business, the lead one sets up a large or small “gun deck” (also called a “gun wall”) on the street and then lights the fuse.
The “gun deck” consists of thousands of rockets that ignite all at the same time, creating a deafening, bee-like sound that fills the air as sparks fly in all directions. Every year the ear-splitting power of these rockets and the excitement that comes in their wake attract crowds of tourists from both Taiwan and abroad to come “rush the beehive barricades”! People believe the “baptism of fireworks” gets rid of calamity and troubles, sweeps away noxious influences and brings increasing good fortune in the new year.