炸邯鄲 Bombing Lord Handan (fireworks on canvas 50F 116.5 x 91cm)

A special custom for the Yuanxiao festival (元宵節) held in Taidong (臺東) county. Handan Ye (寒單 [邯鄲]爺, Lord Handan) is an important deity for Chinese in Taidong. Every year during the Yuaoxiao festival, a tour procession lasts for two days and is a grand local event. “East Handan,” “North Sky Lantern” and “South Beehive fireworks” are major festival activities for Yuaoxiao across Taiwan.
The custom of disturbing the deity’s sedan chair with paper firecrackers on Shangyuan (上元, Yuanxiao) night began in the Qing (清) Dynasty; several places around Taiwan had similar customs. Zhu Qian Zhu Zhi Ci (竹塹竹枝祠) by Chen Chaolong (陳朝龍), Guangxu (光緒) reign during the Qing dynasty, states that, “Bizarre activities like shaofo (燒佛, burning Buddha), playing zheng (鉦, a gong) and facing the cold naked are held; the fire god is everywhere as bright as daylight, express in the display of firecrackers all day long.” This described the “burning Buddha” activity during the Yuanxiao festival in Zhuqian city (, today’s Hsinchu [新竹]), with a footnote saying that “on the night of Shangyuan, a group of men meet at the entrance of the county government hall who, from old customs, carry the fire god in procession; firecrackers are everywhere, sounding like thunder and is called shaofo (burning Buddha).” After World War II, this kind of god welcoming and temple festival activity was rarely seen in the towns and villages of western Taiwan; Taidong has preserved the activities to the present day. Over seventy deities’ sedan chairs from their temples all over Taiwan that participate in this great task and celebration.
The legend of Lord Handan is of diverse origin. One saying is that he was a general in the Shang () dynasty named Zhao Gongming (公明) who was killed when Zhouwuwang (周武王, Zhou [] dynasty emperor) invaded the Shang. After he ascended to heaven and became an immortal, he became the Zonglu Caishen (中路, Middle Path God of Wealth), one of the Wulu Caishen (五路, Five Road Gods of Wealth) in heaven, managing wealth and treasure. According to the legend, Lord Handan was afraid of the cold, so people throw firecrackers toward the deity’s sedan chair to expel cold and to send warmth.
The Bombing Lord Handan ceremony in Taidong is enacted by a person playing “bodily Lord Handan” for a tour procession. The person stands on a bamboo chair, called a “soft sedan chair,” and is carried by four bearers on tour along large streets and small alleys. Along the way, followers and store owners light firecrackers or tie firecrackers on bamboo sticks to “bomb” Lord Handan. Usually, the person who plays Lord Handan wears a hualian (, lit. flower face, as a male character in Chinese opera with painted face). The person’s upper body is naked, a red cloth is tied on his head and he wears red shorts; he holds a banyan leaf in one hand to protect himself from the flying firecrackers. A common saying is that the more firecrackers there are, the greater fortune people will enjoy that year.
In 1984, the police of Taidong county started to regard Lord Handan as mere superstition and the act of Bombing Lord Handan as a “bad activity that takes on the form of social organizing,” and therefore banned the custom strictly. The ban was not lifted until 1989. Finally, the Taidong county government listed “Bombing Lord Handan” as the theme of the National Arts and Culture Season in 1996; “Bombing Lord Handan” thus became recognized as an important folk activity with special characteristics held only in eastern Taiwan. (Copied from http://taiwanpedia.culture.tw/en/content?ID=4469)






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