Tag Archives: hakka

Bombing the Dragon in Miaoli

Every year at the end of Chinese New Year, festivals throughout Taiwan seek to bring prosperity for the new year. One, near Tainan, is the famous Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival. People actually volunteer to have fireworks shot at them as they believe it will show their strength and health. Unfortunately, I missed it again due to unpredictable train schedules the night before I had to be at work.

Instead, I went to another festival that did not involve fireworks being shot at me, but instead at and around a dancing dragon. This Miaoli Hakka festival is called “Bombing the Dragon” and it’s easy to see why. After a few days of dancing dragons visiting storefronts and asking for red envelopes in exchange for good fortune, they are brought to an area where they dance around firecrackers. The dancers must wear protective eyewear, hoods, and masks, though a respirator is something I’d personally rather have. Even though I was further back (though still quite close), I was happy to have a mask and I will say that old clothing, earplugs, and a mask are all essentials when visiting.

  

  

Above: top, a dragon much like what was in the festival sits as the crowd arrives; bottom, festival-goers practiced their own dragon dance as a dragon team prepared for the night.

Above: a hanging dragon made of fireworks lights up as festival goers watch.

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Life at 18mm (Single Shot)

I know I haven’t posted ANYTHING yet this year. The reason for this is because of a few personal changes that made me pretty busy mixed with some absolutely nasty weather here in northern Taiwan. Nasty weather makes it hard to get yourself to go out and shoot, and I hope to alleviate that with today’s beautiful Spring-like day.

This single shot today is taken at 18mm, or a crop-sensor equivalent of about 28mm, was taken as I try to explore other focal points than the regular 35mm/50mm.

It’s actually not the most exciting picture, but the subject itself is pretty cool. This is a Hakka cultural park in Jhubei. Rather than demolish these old farmhouses in the midst of a huge real-estate boom, the developers of this park created a place for locals to preserve and learn about their culture. I’m a huge fan of it and it sticks out in contrast to the modern city surroundings.

I used Lightroom’s rather amazing distortion/lens profile features to fix the image and have been enjoying using Lightroom since the death of the MacBook a few months ago.

With Chinese New Year, a relaxed schedule, and HOPEFULLY, some decent weather, I plan on getting many more images up in the next few weeks.

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Single Shot: Jhubei Mazu Festival

This show comes from last weekend, which gave me a great opportunity to take plenty of pictures. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to processing them all yet.

This shot is part of what I believe is a Hakka group. It is along the lines of a group of clowns or street performers who dress up in outrageous costumes. It includes some male-female cross dressing, ridiculous outfits, and a lot of noise. I’m still searching all over for what it is, where it comes from, and why it happens. I’ve taken photos of these people at a drum festival before – they participate in a lot of cultural events in the area.

EDIT: Yes, this is a Hakka performance troupe. They are involved in drumming, dance, and some theatre. You can find more out about them here (English) or here (original link) – thanks to my wife, Yuling for finding this!

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Jhubei Yimin Performance

This is the last post in a series about the Hakka Yimin festival, an event which takes place every year to honor ancestors who fought in a military struggle against certain rebel factions in Taiwan. It is celebrated by the Taiwanese Hakka community and coincides with Ghost Month. These are from a special performance put on in Jhubei and heavily funded – every ticket was free.

The above three photos show a show being put on by firethrowers. While much of it was hard to shoot, I was able to get a relatively nice set of shots on a set shutter speed with a high ISO. Notice how still the man holding the hoop is. I’d be thankful for that if I had to jump through!

The above two shots were taken during separate dances. The dance in the top picture included elaborate and quite crazy costumes and was actually quite hard to capture at 300mm without an f/2.8 lens. The bottom picture was not as hard, as there was less movement.

This aerial silk artist was also posted on this blog the first time I posted shots from this festival. My favorite shot from this series can be found in the first post.

As usual, Taigu (太鼓), or as the Japanese say, Taiko, drummers were a big part of the celebration. I’ve been able to get better photos due to the bad angles I had, but loved the dramatic lighting.

  

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Hakka Yimin Festival, Part 2

I have been posting about the Hakka Yimin Festival, which I referred to in a previous post. The second part to this festival was last weekend, and it involves a mix between “Ghost Month” festivities and a chance to remember a series of Hakka military victories in Taiwan.

These are from the Yimin temple as well as neighboring communities, which host loosely organized events throughout the countryside in this part of northern Taiwan. Many of these displays are brought together by the community and wealthier benefactors will help in paying for some performances. A major part of the festival is the sacrificial pig, or “pigs,” which after being butchered and cut are presented as altar-type displays in the streets. Competitions between displays occur, and some people will go to great lengths to make their altar seen.

In addition to these displays are Chinese opera performances as well as female singers on karaoke-style stages.

  

   

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Yimin Temple, Part 1

These are shots from last weekend at Yimin Temple, Hsinpu, Taiwan. Ghost Month just ended passed its halfway mark and a major holiday around this time is the Yimin Hakka Festival, a time of remembering ancestors who fought a series of military victories in Taiwan. You can see more about the history of the festival on Culture.TW.

Unfortunatley, I caught the tail end of the Yimin celebration. The main altar for the temple which honors the ancestors was being carried out with much fanfare to go to nearby Jhubei for a large concert.

  

Above left: A woman takes part in an aerial silk show during the Jhubei concert. A large altar was set up for this performance and aimed at honoring the ancestors’ visit from the temple. This show was full of huge extravagant performances and was completely free for those in attendance – I was lucky enough to get a good spot with the 70-300mm. Above right: Ghost money at Yimin temple, used to burn and offer spiritual “money” to the deceased. This is very common during Ghost Month but also can be seen year-round. The notes usually have a Chinese king with ridiculously high denominations (perhaps 1,000,000) on the bills.

Tonight, I will be taking shots for part two of this post. There will be a contest for a sacrificial pig which will be put on display tonight at the temple. I am looking forward to seeing this as I missed it last year. Notice in the background of the incense above, the pigs put on display. These pigs were actually made out of noodles, interestingly enough – an obvious connection to tonight’s ceremony.

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Traditional Chinese Music, Jhubei

These shots were taken last month, the same day I saw a Chinese opera as well as women with traditional Chinese bridal garb.

 

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Hakka Teahouse Exterior

This exterior of a Hakka teahouse was taken later in the evening during Chinese New Year as my family visited.  I’ve posted this located before when telling about making tea during my first visit.

I love the location of this place, as it’s on a side-street in an old town.  You get to it by going down an alley near the large temple nearby.

Taken at 35mm, f/8.0, 1/200 shutter speed at ISO 200. I found myself set on f/8 more often with this lens – I love the versatility that setting provides.

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More from Beipu

Below are some more shots from Beipu.  Starting with a small “local god” set up in a tiny altar in front of a farm:

Followed by a group of statues of the goddess Guan Yin situated across the street from the smaller altar:

…followed by a cobblestoned street in a nearby park.  Check this one out in full size in Flickr for the full effect.

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Hakka Teahouse, Beipu

These shots were taken at a teahouse in Beipu where visitors are able to grind their own spices, tea, and nuts into a Hakka-style tea which is eaten with a bowl and spoon… and in my case, crisped rice.  It’s a different take on tea, and it’s interesting to see a culture that has so many different kinds… much like the European/North American beer and wine culture.

…first, we’ve got the unground ingredients, which were placed in the bowl from biggest to smallest…

…followed by the finished product, which might not look appetizing at first.  It WAS tasty, with a sort of nutty “healthy” taste to it – if that makes sense.

I’ll be posting more outdoor shots from Beipu soon…

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