Taipei, Nov. 4 (CNA) A ceremonial boat worth over NT$7 million (US$228,579) was lit up in flames on Sunday at the end of a traditional disease-warding festival held every three years in Donggang in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan.
The NT$7.6 million boat, which was carried from Dong Long Temple to a beach in the township, was loaded with offerings and set ablaze to send five visiting deities, known as Wang Ye, back to heaven.
The Wang Ye are "invited" to the community to tour the area and "inspect" local villages and then brought to the boat on the last day to take bad spirits, disease, and calamities with them when they return to the heavens.
Up to as many as 10,000 people witnessed the burning of the boat, marking the end of the eight-day festival, the temple said.
In the past, young people, women, the weak and people who had suffered misfortunes did not attend the boat burning event out of fear of coming in contact with the bad spirits and diseases collected in the boat before being burned.
That has changed in recent years, however, as the times have change, the temple said.
The festival kicked off Oct. 28 with a procession at the beach to invite Wang Ye. Beginning on the following day, the flamboyant sedan chairs on which the five visiting deities sat were carried through the township for the next five days.
On the seventh day, the ceremonial boat, called "King Boat (王船), decorated in extravagant traditional colors and motifs, paraded through the township to collect all the evil, disease and bad luck, before coming to its final stop at the beach for the burning (back to heaven) ceremony in the early hours of Sunday.