Fri, Mar 10, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Time to join the battle!

By Derek Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Songjiang Battle Array has a valuable cultural heritage in Taiwan.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KAOHSIUNG COUNTY GOVERNMENT

The magnificent and colorful Songjiang Battle Array (宋江陣) festival held in Neimen township (內門鄉), Kaohsiung County, (高雄縣) attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year from all over Taiwan.

In its fifth year, the demonstrations of various battles are breathing life into an important aspect of grass-roots martial arts training, which has existed since the 17th century in Taiwan.

The festival has been designated by the Tourism Bureau as one of the 12 major cultural activities in the country and will begin tomorrow and last until March 19 at the plaza in front of Zihjhu Temple (內門紫雲寺).

During the nine-day-show of cultural events, the Creative Battle Array Competition -- attended by a record-breaking 19 college teams this year -- will dominate the first day of the festival.

This college competition, in its second year, began on March 4 and has produced 10 teams for the final. Last year, only nine college teams from southern Taiwan showed up for the match, which National University of Tainan won.

The prize for the number one team is NT$300,000, the same as last year. However, a gorgeous-looking glass-craft trophy, named the King's Seal (王者之璽), designed by the internationally renowned glassware art gallery Liuli Gongfang (琉璃工房) will also be given to the winner this year.

According to the organizers, the Creative Battle Array Competition is "aiming to blend street dance, hip-hop [and a] cheerleading spirit for the Songjiang Battle Array, with the additions of youth and creation."

Organizer of the event Wu Hwei-ling (鄔惠玲) said, "An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people have turned up for the festival every year. However, the trien-nial procession of the goddess Guanyin Buddha will be held this year, therefore a record number of visitors are expected to pour into the township over the weekend."

The exciting Songjiang Battle Array was, possibly, created by one of Koxinga's generals in the Ming dynasty. The array has 18 basic sets of tactical deployment and is most often practiced by 36 persons. In addition to kung fu, the demonstration is usually accompanied by drums, gongs and cymbals to cheer up the spirit.

Neimen township, with a population of a little more than 18,000, will entertain with classical Taiwanese songs, dragon dances and folk dances.

Visitors may even get a free meal when the Neimen chef banquet is held.

Activity Note:

What: 2006 Neimen Songjiang Battle Array (2006內門宋江陣)

Where: Zihjhu Temple, Neimen Township, Kaohsiung (高雄縣內門鄉內門紫雲寺)

When: March 11 to March 19.

Admission: Free

Details: www.kscg.gov.tw or www.nmnhtemple.org.tw

Contact: (07) 6671602

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