The annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival or more formally called Cheung Chau Da Jiu Festival, is coming up this month. It is not only one of Hong Kong’s most important festivals, but also one of the most remarkable and spectacular festivals one can witness. It is celebrated on the 8th day of the fourth month of the Lunar calendar (in 2013 is May 17th) and one of the four cultural events in Hong Kong, which has been placed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China.
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival originated in the late Qing dynasty when the people of the small island battled the devastating outcome of the plague of 1894. The Taoist god Pak Tai helped the islanders to drive away the evil spirits by parading statues and other deities through their village. The plague finally ended after and the ritual remains after 100 years to commemorate the people who died in the plague the Cheung Chau Bun Festival was born.
Preparing for the past 12 months the whole island of Cheung Chau is looking forward to celebrate this unique event and have been busy preparing costumes, papier-mâché effigies of deities, baking buns, building the bamboo tower for the bun snatching competition and designing and decorating floats.
The highlights and main events of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival are the Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade and Bun Scrambling (Bun Snatching) Competition. Both events take place on May 17th, 2013 which is also Buddha’s Birthday and a Public Holiday in Hong Kong.
The ceremonial Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade is carnival-like procession through Cheung Chau’s small and narrow lanes. Young children dress up as deities and modern celebrities balancing on poles and “floating” through the air. The colorful parade is a dramatic re-enactment of the ceremony and ritual, which the islanders performed to drive away the evil spirits of the plague a century ago. The Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade starts at 2pm and takes about 2 hours. Be prepared for a huge crowd who will cheer, support and celebrate the “floating children”, over 20 decorated floats and musicians.
Insider Tip: The Hong Kong Tourism Board organized two free ferry services to and from Cheung Chau Island for foreign visitors who particular would like to enjoy the Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival on May 17, 2013. Tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. All you need to do is bring your foreign passport and register in person at either the HKTB Visitor Centre in Tshim Sha Tsui or the HKTB Visitor Centre at The Peak.
The ferries will departure from Kowloon Public Pier at 11:00 am and from Central Pier 9 at 11:15am. The return trip to Central and Kowloon is scheduled at 4:30pm from the Cheung Chau Public Pier.
When the night falls, the Bun Snatching competition will take place. This is also the reason that this festival is known as “Bun Festival”. Over 9,000 buns cover a 14-metre-tall scrambling tower and wait for the participants to be snatched, grabbed and collected on their 3-minute race to the top of the bun tower. The bun tower is divided into three different zones and each bun is labeled with a score number. The buns on the top have the highest value/score (labeled with a “9”) and contestants usually rush to the top of the bun tower to collect these first. The buns in the remaining two zones have a score value of 1 and 3. The contestant who has the highest score will win the Cheung Chau Bun Scrambling (Bun Snatching) Competition.
The Cheung Chau Bun Scrambling (Bun Snatching) Competition will start at midnight on May 17, 2013 and takes place at Soccer Field of the Pak Tai Temple Playground. Please note that admission to the Bun Scrambling (Bun Snatching) Competition is by ticket only. Tickets can be obtained for free on a first-come, first-served basis from 10pm at the Pak She First Lane (just next to the Pak Tai Temple).
Aside from the Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade and Bun Scrambling (Bun Snatching) Competition visitors have a chance to experience Chinese opera performances, Lion and Unicorn Dances, Kung-Fu Performances as well as ritual, traditional and Chinese Acrobatic Performances during the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.
Last but not least, make sure to try one of the delicious Cheung Chau’s Lucky Buns. The “Lucky Buns” are made of flour, sugar and water and usually come in one of the three flavors: sesame, lotus or red bean paste. Traditionally, the “Lucky Buns” are stamped with the Chinese character for peace or safe.
How to Get To Bun Festival:
Take the ferry from Central Pier 5. The ferry rides takes approx. 35-60 minutes.
Please note that the ferry will operate between 12:30am to 11:45pm. The ferry service will be extended on the day of the Bun Scrambling Competition.
Insider Tip: The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is very popular among locals and visitors. Make sure to plan enough buffering time for the ferry and arrive ahead of time to catch the ferry back to Central.