Traditional high swing festival held in Chiayi

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TAIPEI (CNA) – A traditional high swing festival, which dates back more than 200 years, was held in front of a Taoist temple in the southern Taiwan city of Chiayi yesterday.

The festival, which invites participants to take a ride one at a time on a 12-meter bamboo swing frame, is believed to have originated during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) in the Qing dynasty.

According to legend, the swing was built by locals in Chiayi as a part of a ceremony to ask for blessings from Xuanwu, one of the higher-ranking deities in Taoism and an end to plague in the area.

The festival was conducted every leap year until 2008, since when it has been an annual event. It was also registered as an intangible cultural asset by the city’s cultural bureau in December the same year.

Chiayi City Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) said the unique folk culture event has attracted larger and larger crowds over the past decade and become one of the most popular folk activities in the city.

Plans are under way to expand the event, as long as the gods are willing. Festival could be lengthened to two days starting next year so that more people can experience the thrill of the swing, Huang said.

The 12-meter bamboo swing is made by the traditional method of bundling vines, without the use of nails or screws, a member of the temple said, adding that the bamboo used to make the swing is also carefully selected from the mountains and has undergone special processing.

The event is not only a fine tradition, but also offers participants a thrilling experience where they can test their courage and physical strength, the member of the temple pointed out.

By Huang Kuo-fang and William Yen