Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Fire Lion... and Falun Gong

A few weeks back we attended the final day of the 2012 Kaohsiung Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival (高雄左營萬年季). When the article I wrote about this cultural event appears next year, I'll add a link. Until then, here's a summary: Several local temples cooperate to build a "fire lion" which is venerated, paraded through the streets of Zuoying, blasted with firecrackers (shown top) and then set afire to carry people's wishes and hopes up to heaven. Dozens of other events - culinary and artistic - have been tacked on to create the modern festival.
One of the wonderful things about religious events in Taiwan is that you never know what you might see. Over the past 20 years, I've been to or stumbled across hundreds of miao hui (會, 'temple gatherings') and da bai bai (大拜拜, 'big worship ceremonies') but I don't recall ever seen members of Falun Gong - a group regarded by some as a cult - taking part in one. There were almost 200 of them, outnumbering the lion dancers and other zhentou. The banner bearers (above) were quite striking, but it was the marching band (below) that I'll remember. Watching them, I couldn't but help thinking of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.

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