Hengchun Pole Climbing Festival

T here are two explanations of the orgin of “Hengchun Ghost Grappling Contest” or “Hengchun Quiang Gu”. The first one says the Contest is originated from a Fujian tradition during the China era, during which the single men recruited by Shen Bao-jen at Fujian later died in Hengchun during cultivations; the town-folks performed religious ceremonies for them, and the offerings (food) were then given to poor families. In order to avoid conflicts when giving off the food, a set of rules as how the food is to be “grappled” was set, making it the earliest practice of the Contest.

T he other explanation is related to Shen Bao-jen’s cultivation in Taiwan. The population that settled in the Hengchun City was mostly consisted of officials, merchants and land-owners, whereas the people outside the city were mostly fishermen or farmers. After the Ghost Festival, the more well-off “City folks” would then gave the food offerings to the poor residents outside the City. Afterwards, during each year’s the Ghost Festival, the crowds would gather and fight with each other for the offerings, which often resulted in bloodshed. In order to improve that situation, it was decided to put all the offerings at the plaza of Fude Temple, and a “public Pudu (Ritual of Universal Salvation)” was to be held on the day of the Ghost Festival. The offerings would then be “grappled” by the public after the ceremony, making it the earliest form of the Grappling Contest.

D uring the earliest Contests, arguing, pushing or fighting were very common. That is why four logs (each about 10 meters long) were raised to symbolize the City Gates at four directions, and butter was applied on the logs. A tent was also raised where all the offerings were placed together. The local folks would then be put into four teams, but the priority was given to the people outside the City. The previous drawbacks were eliminated by promoting team-work. This kind of Grappling Contest” is often misten for the “Pole Climbing Festival”, when in fact they are two different festivals. Hengchun Quian Gu in the form of Pole Climbing Festival is the most special and lively day of all Ghost festival activities in Hengchun Township.