The city of Dasi in eastern Taiwan is at the heart of the celebrations of the Birthday of Kuan Kung: The God of War, which in 2012 falls on 28 June. The Taiwanese people believe that the spirit of Kuan Kung, a general who lived during the Han dynasty and fought during the civil war, which would eventually lead to its collapse, has the ability to ward off bad spirits that carry disease. After suffering a mass cholera epidemic more than a century ago, the people of Taiwan entreated the spirit of Kuan Kung to exorcise the evil spirits out that the people believed were inflicting them with the plague.
Kuan Kung is still revered today by many in Taiwan and around the world, with claims that the presence of his statue will not only ward off spirits of disease (or bad spirits in general) but also has the ability to manage finances, making him a popular god among business men.
During the celebration of Kuan Kung’s birth the people gather at Dasi, in a place of worship called the Puchi Tang Kuan Kung Temple. There they form a huge parade with many of the people dressing as historical figures from the time of Kuan Kung and march around the temple and eventually through the town of Dasi, setting off displays of magnificent fireworks. Taiwan is famed in the east for their amazing and somewhat dangerous fireworks displays.
Taiwanese festivals are a beautiful opportunity for travelers to get a rich cultural experience and to learn something knew about an ancient society and how they live.
By Julie Bowman