Worshipers and visitors crowded the streets near New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sansia Tsushih Temple (三峽祖師廟) on the sixth day of the first month of Lunar New Year yesterday, to celebrate Master Chingshui’s (清水祖師) birthday with religious parades and a public display of “divine pigs.”
The annual birthday celebration began in the morning with a parade through the streets with traditional folk performances, people dressed as Heavenly troops and bands playing religious music on traditional instruments.
A special feature was the public display of “divine pigs,” which were sacrificed for the prayer ceremony held in front of the temple.
This year’s winning “divine pig” tipped the scales at 1,061kg to defeat 11 other candidates and break the temple’s record.
The winner’s owner, Chen Hsien-teh (陳賢德), said the pig had taken 22 months to grow to that size and “was fed with oatmeal and rice, once in the morning and once at night, with about 15kg of food per meal.”
Tradition has it that people gain wisdom by touching the pig’s hair and are blessed with safety and good fortune by touching its snout.
However, media reported last week that the temple’s management board said they would end the divine pig weight contest in 2017, because of opposition from animal rights protection groups.
In a press release last week, the Council of Agriculture urged the use of normal-sized pigs in religious ceremonies and suggested that rice, noodles, flowers or other material formed into the shape of a pig could be used to replace real sacrificial pigs.
The temple management board said yesterday that it did not have the authority to stop the event which could only be made by the seven patriarchal clans which take turns to host the annual sacrificial rites.