Tainan fireworks festival harkens back to historical epidemic: mayor

02/05/2020 07:47 PM
Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) (right)
Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) (right)

Taipei, Feb. 5 (CNA) Tainan's Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday, has an added significance this year because of its origins in a preventative effort in the 19th century against a deadly disease, Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said Wednesday.

At a promotional press conference, Huang said the festival traditionally was held to pray for the health and wellbeing of Tainan residents.

According to local legend, the tradition dates to the 19th century, when merchants sought help from the gods to combat a cholera epidemic in the southern city.

The city government's decision not to cancel the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival this year, amid the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, was made with that history in mind and in hope of the gods' protection, Huang said.

Held over two days in the lead-up to the Lantern Festival, the fireworks festival includes religious parades from Wu Temple in the city's Yanshui District and a unique fireworks spectacle.

The word "beehives" in the festival's title references specially built launchers that shoot fireworks into the crowds, buzzing and stinging like bees. Revelers at the festival are usually decked out from head to toe in protective and flame-retardant gear as they try to dodge the "bees."

According to Wu Temple manager Lin Yi-jen (林益仁), local businesses, citizen groups and individuals have constructed more than 200 "beehives" this year.

He said attendance is expected to be high, as the festival is being held during schools' winter vacation, on Friday and Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Tainan Cultural Affairs Bureau said visitors who do not want to join in the festivities can safely watch the fireworks from designated observation areas.

All visitors to the festival are advised to wear a surgical face mask, in light of the large crowds, while participants in the "beehive" activity are urged to wear full-body protective gear to avoid injury, city officials said.

(By Yang Sz-ruei and Matthew Mazzetta)

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