Taiwan’s Beigang Matsu Pilgrimage has a 100 year history with its fair share of customs and rituals. And one rather explosive tradition always leads to more than a few people getting their faces a little dirty.
It’s that time of year again for the 100-year old Beigang Matsu pilgrimage in Yunlin County. The event’s best-known tradition involves using 120 cases of firecrackers to give the sacred palanquin an explosive send-off.
The thing is the people carrying the sedan have to stand right where they are holding the palanquin while the explosion takes place. The blast is such that the black smoke from the explosion rises up before a thick black cloud of dust comes down and falls on the carriers. The men’s hair gets so badly scorched it turns curly, and their faces and necks get covered in thick layers of black soot.
They say they have to wear earplugs, hats and towels around their necks because you can get burns from the explosion. The bearers are not allowed to wear face masks, for fear that they could catch fire.
The bearers say that they need to shower for an hour before all the dirt comes off. Even though they get blisters on their feet from all the walking, and sleep for an average of just three hours a night, they have smiles on their faces taking part in such a special event.