According to the Chinese calendar Lantern Festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the lunar new year. The most popular thing to do in Taiwan is to head out to Pingxi and watch thousands of sky lanterns being released en masse. But if you’re looking for something a little more exciting and slightly insane, why not join Taiwan’s – and maybe the world’s – most dangerous celebration: Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival! On this day, traffic is banned from Yanshui’s city center. Crowds gather in search of giant beehives, filled with thousands of rockets. Beware, the fireworks aren’t pointed up towards the sky but shoot straight into the crowds! The more times you get hit, the more good fortune they say you’ll have!
Now why exactly are they doing that?!
A little bit of history
During the late 19th century there was a cholera and plague epidemic in Yanshui. Back then people believed diseases were spread by evil spirits. So they called upon Guan Gong, the martial God, to bring an end to this calamity. He agreed to help and was welcomed with lots of fireworks during Lantern Festival. The fireworks scared the demons away and the epidemic ended. Up until today the citizens of Yanshui still honour this tradition.
The “beehives” are actually giant constructions made out of wood, in all shapes and sizes which are filled to the brim with rocket fireworks. You’ll see palanquins with Guan Gong’s figure being carried throughout the city. Follow the religious music, cause they lead to the beehives waiting to be set on fire.
The sea of helmets starts to hop nervously. Something’s about to go down.
Suddenly the madness starts: fireworks rocketing all over the place like a swarm of angry bees bursting from their hive!
Beehives, palanquins with religious figures, people dressed up as poor looking aliens and the deafening sound of rockets whizzing past your ears. It’s almost impossible to describe this mayhem. So check it out for yourself:
- A helmet with a visor: No worries if you don’t have one, you can easily buy one in Yanshui.
- Towels or a scarf: You need to put something around your neck, to prevent stray fireworks from getting into your helmet.
- Tape: To secure the towel/scarf around your helmet and seal your sleeves, pants, etc.
- Strong shoes: Rockets shooting everywhere + people jumping around = now is not the time for flip-flops.
- Not your nicest clothes: Whenever I see the small burnt holes in our raincoats I get reminded of this crazy evening!
- Earplugs: Pretty obvious I guess ;)
- Layers: Depends on what your plan is. If you want stand in the front row and take direct hits, you’ll need lots of layers to absorb the shock! For those playing it safe a few rows back, it does get really hot in the middle of the crowds.
How to get there
We took a train from Kaohsiung to Xinying station which is the closest one to Yanshui. From there we hailed a taxi who drove us as close as possible to the city centre. Make sure you get there on time if you still need to buy all the gear you need. The festivities only start after dark. Because we found out about this festival quite late, the few places to stay in and around Yanshui were already sold out. We were very bummed that we had to catch the last train. If you can manage to find a place to stay I would totally recommend it! The craziness continues all night!