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Living heritage of Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau bun festival: tens of thousands descend on island to watch ‘floating colours’ parade

Among the highlights were kids dressed up as beloved local athletes and an African family showcasing their culture

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 11:56pm

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers and tourists flocked to Cheung Chau to take part in the outlying island’s famous annual bun festival on Wednesday, braving the hottest day of the year so far.

As of 9pm, some 48,000 people had travelled between Central and Cheung Chau, similar to the total at the same time last year, according to New World First Ferry Services, which transports commuters to and from the island.

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Organisers had expected a larger turnout of some 60,000 visitors since the festivities also coincided with the Buddha’s birthday, a public holiday for the city.

Running from April 30 to May 4 this year, festivities reached a peak on Wednesday with thousands of people lining the streets to watch one of the highlights, the Piu Sik, or “floating colours” parade.

The event is a traditional Taoist ritual featuring children aged between four and six dressed in colourful costumes and balanced on “floating” platforms around the island in the belief that it will ward off wandering evil spirits.

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Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, flanked by festival organisers and representatives from Beijing’s liaison office, watched the procession in the sweltering heat from a covered stage.

Hong Kong’s new leader, who takes office in July, was all smiles as performers dressed as deities and dragon dancers marched past to the sound of gongs and drums.

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She left the scene before the arrival of children hoisted high on stilts and floats, traditionally mimicking political figures or reflecting popular local culture.

Heading the parade were two children dressed as top professional boxer Rex Tso Sing-yu and women’s snooker world champion Ng On-yee. The two athletes, well-loved by Hongkongers, both clinched gold in their respective international competitions in March.

Next up was a four-year-old girl, dressed as Lam in a powder blue suit and a wig. Accompanying her at ground level was a boy imitating education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim.

The other big highlight was to kick off at midnight, when competitors participate in the bun scramble, clambering up a 14-metre tall bamboo tower adorned with imitation buns. The more buns they snatch, the more points they collect, and the higher the buns, the bigger the score.

One of the stars of the parade was three-year-old African-Chinese Jully Souiane, who was carried through the streets in a tribal costume.

“She was a bit scared [about being carried], but we’ve been practising for the past two weeks,” Jully’s father, Doumbouya Souiane, said, as he led her and two African drummers past an excited crowd.

Souiane, who is originally from Cameroon in Central Africa and married a Cheung Chau resident, added that he was happy his culture could be represented in the festival.

Jully, after standing on stilts and waving to the crowds for over three hours, was still energetic as she insisted on watching flag bearers race to the finishing line of the parade at Pak Tai temple.

Grace Lam, who has watched the parade several times over the years, was delighted with the addition of Souiane’s family in the parade. “It’s the first time I’ve seen someone from Africa participate in the parade; it’s quite refreshing,” she said.