Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Peace Bun at the Bun Festival Cheung Chau

長洲太平清醮 ‧平安包‧搶包山‧
If you visit Hong Kong in the recent few days, you would have noticed the Bun Festival which attracts a lot of attention. Thousands and thousands of people flood into Cheung Chau to take part in it.

What is Bun Festival?
In fact, the name itself does not fully describe what’s up at Cheung Chau. The proper name of the activities going on is called 太平清醮.    太平 means peace. will need a little more words to explain. It is a high profile and large scale cultural ritual which consists of a series of events and the Bun Collection Competition is the highlight to wrap up the whole function. May be for easy understanding to foreigners, people simply call it Bun Festival. In fact, to be more accurate, it should be called the Peace Ritual.

What about the Peace Bun?
It is a kind of bun specifically made for the Bun Festival.  As the event origination is for peace acquisition, each of the buns had a big red chop carrying the Chinese character 平安 meaning ‘peace’. 

In terms of stuffing, it is usually lotus paste and sesame paste.

Peace Bun is a respectful food. Nowadays people have lots of foods to eat, and there are often left-overs on the table. Please do not treat the Peace Bun that way. If you want to eat a Peace Bun, please eat the whole bun.If you think that’s too much, share among friends. If you throw away any left-over bun, it is believed that you’ll bring bad luck to yourself, as well as receiving unfriendly eye sights from local villagers.

Chopping the Ping An Buns

Queueing to buy Ping An Bun

Climbing of Bun Pyramid
Bun Collection Competition 搶包山

Origination of the Peace Ritual

There are different versions of legends.  But generally it is related to ‘peace’.  It was said that at some stage, some villages had plague attack and many people died.  The whole society was feeling unsecure and thought that the disasters were brought to them by spirits or souls from the underworld.  And there was a cultural believe that these underworld spirits are afraid of loud, noisy atmosphere and the collective energy produced when a large number of people gathering together. Hence to get rid of these unwelcomed spirits and to acquire ‘peace’ again, villagers held the ‘Peace Ritual’. The series of events include but not limit to monks set up the altar worship, parade, dragon and lion dance and finally the Bun Collection Competition, nowadays people call it Bun Festival. 

There are many types of Peace Ritual held at different regions in Hong Kong (usually at out lying islands and new territories) and at different intervals.  Some places have it every 5, 10 or even 60 years.  But the one in Cheung Chau is held annually, usually around early to mid April in the Chinese calendar.  Although many people go there for fun and see it as a festival, the origination of the whole event is not a festival and not for fun.
Hong Kong Food Blog - The Ping An Bun

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