Living heritage of Hong Kong

Tiny Hong Kong island braces itself for 60,000 visitors ahead of annual bun festival

The celebration falls on Buddha’s birthday, a public holiday for the city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 2:21pm

About 60,000 people are expected to squeeze onto Cheung Chau for Hong Kong’s annual bun festival next Wednesday – 5,000 more than last year and almost three times the population of the island.

Organisers said a larger turnout was expected because the festival will fall on Buddha’s birthday, a public holiday for the city.

Celebrations will officially kick off this Saturday, April 29, and then culminate four days later on May 3 with Taoist ceremonies, lion dances and a colourful children’s parade.

As is tradition, the popular parade will include a political satire theme and Yung Chi-ming, chairman of Cheung Chau Rural Committee, did not rule out the possibility of children mimicking Hong Kong’s chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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A dozen climbing enthusiasts will then battle for glory at midnight on the final day in the annual bun scrambling competition. Both male and female contestants will compete in their respective categories until the final climb.

Champions are decided on how many buns they manage to snatch from the tower, with those taken from higher up receiving more points.

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The tradition, which stems from a Qing dynasty ceremony worshipping the god of Pak Tai, was scrapped after an accident in 1978. It was then revived in 2005 after safety measures had been introduced.

Dilys Cheung Yuk-king, chief leisure manager of Leisure and Cultural Services Department, said 1,650 tickets would be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis two hours before the event.

“If a [typhoon signal] No.3 or above, or a red or black rainstorm warning signal is hoisted by 9pm [next Wednesday], the event will be cancelled,” she said.

In the case of heavy rain or thunderstorms, a decision will be made one hour before the competition. The race would not be rescheduled if bad weather forces cancellation.

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The Hong Kong Observatory has forecast sunny intervals and one or two showers for the day, with temperatures ranging between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius.

The event was called off in 2015 after thunderstorms lashed the city, and organisers deemed conditions too treacherous for climbers to compete.

The Transport Department said it did not expect to have to limit the number of people visiting the island as ferries would be running at increased frequencies.