After our captivating lantern festival experience in Pinxi, we thought our Taiwanese celebrations were over but a week later in Taitung, we randomly stumbled upon one of the weirdest festivals I have ever seen called “The bombing of master Han Dan”.The Chinese lunar calendar new year is the most important event in Taiwan and can be celebrated slightly different in each region. The holiday last starts on the last day of a lunar calendar year and goes on for 15 days. On the 15th day, different regions have their own special way of celebrating this occasion. In many places in the north, such as Pinxi and Zhongxin honour the special day by releasing thousands of beautiful lanterns into the night sky carrying good wishes. In the south the wild locals prefer to blast their way into the new year with thousands of firecrackers! In Tainan there is a festival called Beehive fireworks festival where locals gear up in thick coats and motorcycle helmets to witness thousands of untamed firecrackers and bottle rockets get fired into the crowd. Taitung, where we ended up on the 15th, was home to a similar festival called “The bombing of master Han Dan” where a shirtless man representing the god of wealth is pelted with firecrackers while he is paraded though town.
Here is some footage I captured during the Bombing of Han Dan 2014.
There are many versions of how this festival came to be. One legend accounts that the throwing of fireworks once got rid of a plague that threatened the city. Other versions describe Master Han Dan as the god of wealth and that by throwing more firecrackers at him you will receive more wealth for the coming year. It is reported that local business owners will spend an upwards of $7000 just on firecrackers for this event. The brave man who volunteers to be master Han Dan normally wears a scarf, mask and shorts. He stands topless on a platform and is carried around town by four men. He visits several corners throughout the maze of downtown Taitung. At each corner he is met by a barrage of firecrackers with each business owner trying to outdo the others.
We arrived in Taitung in the evening without a clue of what was going on. We stumbled on the main corner of explosions on our way to find dinner. The unbelievable scene distracted our empty tummies until midnight as we watched wave after wave of different neon coloured floats, people dressed up gods, dancers, firecrackers and loud speakers pumping techno music pass by. It was a overwhelming experience of all senses so bizarre I can only compare to the vibe of burning man. This was one of our most memorable stop on our tour in Taiwan.