6 Myths Behind the Wangye Worshipping (Donggang Boat Burning) Ceremony

The truth behind the festival: A My Kaohsiung EXCLUSIVE report.

一生中一定要參加一次的台灣傳統文化祭典: My Kaohsiung 獨家報導東港迎王祭典 

Date 日期: Sun, Oct 28 – Sun Nov 4 (10月28日 – 11月4日)
Location 地點: Donglong Temple, Pingtung  東港東隆宮 (No. 21-1 Donglong Street, Donggang Township, Pingtung County, 928) Google Map

My Kaohsiung sat down with an organizer of the festival and gained a deeper understanding of the ceremony. We want to share some exclusive insights and photos.

My Kaohsiung 特地前往東港東隆宮訪問今年東港迎王祭典的相關人員,了解溫府千歲和祭典的起源和演變後,想與你們分享一些在地人對信仰的虔誠.

Myth 1: The name of the ceremony is the Dongguang Boat Burning Festival.

MK Exclusive: The official name is the Donggang Wangye Worshipping Ceremony.


Myth 2: The boat is not seaworthy.

MK Exclusive: The boat costs more than $6 million NTD to build and takes 80 to 90 local volunteer craftsmen 4 to 5 months to build the ship from scratch. The ships are built with lauan wood (柳安木) and built like any other boat. In fact, at the initial stage of building the boat, a ceremony is held when the boat keel (安龍骨) is placed. Then, shipbuilders bore 2 holes into the wood and insert 2 coins (安龍銀) to signify success and safety in building the boat. The organizers emphasized the boat could sail the high seas.


Myth 3: The highlight of the festival is the burning of the boat.

MK Exclusive: For Donggang residents, the highlight of the festival is actually the first day of the festival of welcoming the gods (溫府千歲). This has more significance since the festival is about having the gods taking away bad luck from the town.


Myth 4: Donggang has always hosted the festival.

MK Exclusive: As the earliest as it can be traced back in Qing Dynasty, Donggang has been hosting the ceremony for over a century. Previously, the boat was sent to sail; but during this time, disease was rampant and it was thought the boat carried disease. Thus, the other towns refused or could not afford to host the festival to send away boat with disease. Since then, the event has evolved to burning the boat so no one would be bothered. While all temples in the region take part in the festivities, the Donglong Temple (東隆宮)—Donggang’s largest temple—is where the boat is put on display and where the largest blessings take place.


Myth 5: Burning of the boat was the traditional finale of the festival.

MK Exclusive: Previously, the festival ended with the boats being sent adrift to sail the seas–not burning the boat. Interestingly, Mainland China has similar celebrations and often, their boats would wash up ashore on Donggang. When they are found, the boats are burned because it is believed they carried disease. This led to the modern tradition of burning the boat instead of letting it sail.


Myth 6: Burning of the boat happens at midnight.

MK Exclusive: The entire day is dedicated to worshiping, with most temples in Donggang participating in the ceremony. Then the boat is moved to the beach which takes around 2 hours. It will be dawn, around 2am, when the boat is burned. While this may seem late for many people, the event is captivating and people could easily pass the time by eating at the famous fish market. Then, if you go with friends you could play cards, catch up on your favorite shows, take pictures, etc., until the burning starts. By the way, remember to take a beach blanket to sit and relax on.

TIP #1

According to the locals, the first day of festival (the 28th) is a must-do because the ceremony to invite the gods is the highlight of the event. The public is also suggested to visit Donggang in any following days. An easy way to participate in the religious ceremony is to follow the boat through the streets and to stop by folk art performances (陣頭) near the Donglong Temple. The devout faith towards tradition and belief is very important to any cultural groups, and the Donggang Wangye Worshipping Ceremony is no exception. The public is asked kindly to not touch the boat or take any item or food away from the boat during the ceremony. Finally, follow the boat instead of cuting in line of the performing folk teams.

TIP #2

Ever wonder how to scout ideal photography location for the ceremony? Simply follow the performing teams behind the boat. November 3rd will have many cerebrations leading up to the next day. My Kaohsiung will be there on the Fongyu bridge (豐漁橋) to capture some good shots. Hope to see you there.