Amid the ashes and smoke of burnt offerings and the clamour of firecrackers, more than 10,000 people, local villagers and members of the Chinese worldwide diaspora, flocked to Tap Mun (Grass Island) yesterday, a fishing village on the outer reaches of Tolo Harbour, to catch a glimpse of the Tin Hau goddess on her once-a-decade circumnavigation of the island. April 14 marked the start of the five-day, 231-year-old Da Jiu festival on Tap Mun. Unlike Da Jiu festivals hosted by Hakkas, this celebration is a joint effort between Hakka and Tanka people from six villages - Tap Mun, Kat O, Sam Mun Tsai, Ko Lo Wan, Sham Wan and Sam Mo Shek. Various rituals and celebrations such as a puppet show, vegetarian feasts and Chinese opera performances are slotted into a busy calendar of colourful events on the island from April 14-18. The ultimate event occurred yesterday when a statue of Tin Hau was paraded around the island by boat, accompanied by a flotilla of 50 decorated fishing trawlers, sampans and speed boats. Organising committee vice-chairman Loi Lam said: 'It's taken us nearly two years to prepare for this celebration.' Born on Tap Mun but raised in Britain, Mr Lam added: 'This is the second Da Jiu I have taken part in - same as my two sons who are on the lion-dancing boat. This celebration is unique, not only because of the boat and water aspects, but because of the origin of the festival and the combination of the villages around the area.' Starting at 11am, the Tin Hau figure was gently lifted from the village temple and carried to a boat amid a cacophony of beating drums, burning of paper money and dancing Chinese lions and Hakka unicorns. A flotilla of boats left Tap Mun harbour and wended its way around the island, switching off their engines half-way through the journey when they reached open east-coast waters. A 30-minute blessing was performed to give thanks to the gods of the sea before the flotilla moved on to complete its journey. A 120-member organising committee prepared the HK$7.4 million extravaganza, which will welcome more than 40,000 visitors to the event this year. Most of the funds were donated by people in Britain, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States who have roots in the villages. Organising committee secretary Molson Lee Ka-wai explained that a Chinese-language website was set up two years ago that connected organisers with all those interested in or planned to attend the festival. 'Our Da Jiu pictures and videos will be uploaded to keep the celebratory spirit alive,' Mr Lee said. 'More than 400 overseas villagers returned for this event thanks to technology, word of mouth and promotional efforts.'