Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Pole-climbing event in Hengchun to be largest ever: official

INTERNATIONAL The fastest team to climb to the top of the column and snatch the flag is believed to enjoy the protection of ghosts during the year

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The 2007 Cianggu, an event that has been held annually during Ghost Month in Hengchun Township (恆春), Pintung County, for more than 100 years, will be the largest ever and enjoy the addition of some "international flavor," an official said on Monday at a press conference.

The pole-climbing competition, in which competitors have to climb barehanded up an 11m column, heavily greased with beef tallow, to snatch a flag at the top, will be expanded from four columns to 36 columns, meaning that there will be 36 teams participating, including two foreign teams, Pingtung County Commissioner Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) said.

The event will be held on the evening of Aug. 27, the last day of a three-day festival which also includes a street dance competition, a parade and rock concert.

Cianggu is one of the most popular folk Ghost Month events in Taiwan -- the seventh lunar month -- though in its origins and background have always been well represented, Tsao said.

He explained that the festival was held to distribute the offerings given to ghosts to society's homeless, poor and starving people.

In Taiwan, the annual religious event has put two small towns on the cultural map: Ilan County's Toucheng Township (頭城) and Hengchun in the south.

"In the past, there were some foreigners in the competition, mixed in with local teams, but they never competed as a separate team," Hengchun Mayor Yeh Ming-shun (葉明順) said, adding that a Thai team and a mixed team of Americans, Indonesians and Japanese had registered to compete this year.

The fastest team to climb to the top of the column and snatch the flag from the top platform typically places the flag at the front end of their boat, symbolizing that they will enjoy the protection of ghosts throughout the year, Tsao said.

With Hengchun's rich history, historical sites and cultural heritage, more events have been planned for the future, Tsao said.

Pingtung County Government is planning to hold an international folk song festival next year in Hengchun, where the late Chen Da (陳達), a well-known folk singer lived.

Tsao believes the combination of the folk song festival, Cianggu and the Spring Scream, a rock festival held annually in April, will boost Hengchun's tourism and local business as well as its cultural awareness.

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