TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On the evening of Aug. 29 in Yilan’s Toucheng Township (頭城鎮), the annual Ghost Grappling Festival was held in which teams try to scramble up tall greased poles and large towers covered in auspicious items in order to grab a lucky pennant affixed to the top.
The festival takes place on the 15th day of the seventh month of each Lunar New Year. At this year’s main event, which kicked off at 11:00 p.m. Thursday night, there were 12 teams participating, with one team representing New Immigrants from Indonesia.
The towers, constructed every year, are traditional structures with a history dating back hundreds of years. There are three portions of the tower, which is called a gupeng (孤棚) and they include 12 large support pillars, a platform and then 13 bamboo trestlework spires. In total, the gupeng is 13 stories high.
The most difficult part of the climb is reaching the platform, because each of the support pillars is coated in grease. After reaching the platform, the teams can begin the final ascent up the bamboo towers in a race for the pennant.
According to the website Taiwan Gods, the ritual festival competition is a metaphor for the hard work required of a community in order for people to live a prosperous life. First, people must suffer in life before they can achieve the blessings of the ancestors and spirits, and thereby enjoy material prosperity.
CNA reports that the winner of last night’s Ghost Grappling competition was Team A, representing civil servants from Yilan’s Luodong Township (羅東鎮). The team completed the challenge in just 32 minutes.
The 2019 gupeng tower (CNA photo)