Hengchun Ghost Grappling Festival

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Hengchun Ghost Grappling Festival

Orgins of Hengchun Ghost Grappling Festival

There are two explanations about Hengchun Ghost Grappling Festival. One originated from the folk customs in Fujian Province of the Qing dynasty. Back then, Shen Baozhen was recruiting single strong men in Fujian Province, who were later brought to Taiwan and died during the plantation period in Hengchun.

Good-hearted people in the town held a ceremony to pacify the deceased during the Ghost Festival, after which those sacrificial offerings were donated to relieve the poor. In order to avoid disputes and quarrels when the sacrificial offerings were distributed, the offerings were placed in a central location where people could grab them under certain rules, and that became the origin of the early Hengchun Ghost Grapplingpling Festival. 

The other explanation is also associated with Shen Baozhen’s achievement in Taiwan.

After Hengchun City was built, it began to be populated by mostly government officials, businessmen, landlords, and so on, whereas residents outside the city were mostly fishermen and tenant-peasants.

The affluent “County citizens” donated sacrificial offerings to residents outside the city after the Ghost Festival. From then on, each year after the Ghost Festival, poor people gathered in crowds to grapple for the offerings, which often led to disputes, quarrels and even physical confrontations.

In order to assuage this situation, the sacrificial offerings were gathered in Hengchun’s Fude Temple Plaza, and on the day of the Ghost Festival, the poor people could grapple for the sacrificial offerings after “feeding the hungry ghosts,” which turned into the early formation of Hengchun Ghost Grappling Festival.

grappling ghost platform in hengchun

During Ghost Grappling Competition in the earlier times, people often had quarrels, shoves and physical confrontations. Hence, four 36-foot-long logs, covered by grease, were erected to represent the East Gate, the South Gate, the West Gate and the North Gate.

Meanwhile, sacrificial offerings were piled up to form the Ghost Tower, where the locals (mostly out-of-town residents) were organized into 4 groups that could best demonstrate their solidarity and cooperation. The evolution completely averted the shortcomings in the past. The transition of the way to grapple with the ghosts often makes people confuse “Grappling with the Ghosts” with “Erecting the Ghost Tower.”

While “Erecting the Ghost Tower” is the main activity in “Hengchun Ghost Grappling Festival,” it is also the most memorable and cheerful in the Ghost Festival in Hengchun!

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