Learning Traditions of Taiwan:Wang Yeh Boat Burning(東港迎王平安祭典)

Wang Yeh Boat Burning is an event that occurs on the last day of an 8-day Taoist festival(東港迎王平安祭典) that happens once every three years. Gods are invited down to earth where they’re celebrated and feasted. In return, they ward off diseases, demons and bad spirits.

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Throughout the course of 8 days, various rituals take place, from ritualistic dances to bearers walking over burning coals to purify themselves. A 13-meter long ancient warship was crafted a year in advance. During the festival, the boat is parade around town to absorb the bad spirits, diseases, and misfortune. Worshipers fill the ship with rice, money and food- goods for the deity’s voyage home.

On the last day, the ship is dragged to the beach atop a mountain of ghost paper, offerings to the gods and ghosts and set on fire. Once lit, all bad spirits and diseases are said to be consumed with it.

Older Wang Yeh believers leave once the boat is lit, to avoid their souls being taken. Nowadays most people stay to watch the huge ship burn to the ground, engulfed in flames. Nevertheless, we passed by practitioners dressed in ceremonial clothing- watching a livestream of the burning from a safe distance.

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