The Cheung Chau Bun Festival falls on the fifth to the ninth days of the fourth lunar month.
Every year, the people of Cheung Chau get busy making papier-mâché effigies of deities, preparing costumes, baking buns and building a bamboo tower. They’re preparing for the thousands of people that will soon descend upon their tiny island for what Time.com deemed one of the world's 'Top 10 Quirky Local Festivals'.
It all started with a plague that devastated Cheung Chau in the late Qing dynasty (1644–1911). The islanders built an altar in front of the Pak Tai Temple and petitioned the god Pak Tai to drive off the evil spirits besieging the island, while parading statues of deities through the narrow lanes of their village. The plague ended after the performance of these Taoist rituals and 100 years later the rituals are still performed in a festival that is listed as an intangible part of China’s cultural heritage.
For the locals, this is the continuation of their customs. The islanders have a strong sense of community and those who have left to work elsewhere will return for this celebration. For the thousands who crowd the ferry boats to the erstwhile pirate haven, this is the spectacular Cheung Chau Bun Festival. The weeklong event includes Taoist ceremonies and music, a parade, lion dances, drum beating and an exciting Bun Scrambling Competition.
The Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade
This dramatic reenactment of the ceremonial parade held to drive away a plague a century ago sees young children, dressed in the guises of traditional deities and modern celebrities, balance on poles and accompanied by gongs and lion dancers, appearing to float above the crowds in a carnival-like procession.
The Bun Scrambling Competition
Finally, as night falls, the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives. Opposite Pak Tai Temple, competitors stand poised at the bottom of an enormous bamboo tower studded with imitation buns. On the signal, they scramble up and try to collect as many ‘lucky’ buns as possible. The higher the buns, the more points they are worth. The King and Queen of the Buns titles are up for grabs again!