I went to the Pigs of God Festival (Big Pig Festival) for the fourth time this year. This festival, held in honor of the Chinese god Zushi, only happens once a year, in on the sixth day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, but many people argue that is still too often. For the celebration, pigs are force-fed until they are obscenely, incredibly obese, and then slaughtered. The meat is distributed to family and friends, and possibly sold. I have heard that politicians sometimes sponsor the pigs because they are supposed to bring good luck.
If a brief, informal survey of some of my students is correct, they would rather celebrate Christmas than the Big Pig Festival. This might indicate a detachment from traditional values, or that exchanging gifts with your friends is more fun than admiring pig hides.
Zushi, whose birthday is celebrated like this every year, is “the guardian spirit for Tieguanyin (鐵觀音) tea and famous for being asked for raining [sic],” according to the awesome website Round Taiwan Round.
This festival is always overwhelming to me. The crowds are huge, there are many different stages playing all kinds of music–traditional opera music, old-school love ballads, contemporary pop songs. There are puppets and opera singers and pole dancers and local bands.
There are so many people that I even noticed Taiwanese people taking pictures of the size of the crowd, just raising their phones and shooting down the street. That means that even people who are from here are incredulous about how many people there are. And this is just one festival in one part of the city–there are others, and the night market, and hordes of people playing Pokemon Go…
Sometimes Taiwan seems so big for such a small island, but when everyone leaves the house, you realize how squished we all are: 647 per square mile (1676 people per square km), according to Wikipedia, which doesn’t really convey how crowded it feels because few people live in the mountains and the east coast is much less populated than the north and northwest.
I just want to make a slideshow with like one hundred pictures of everything lit up by neon lights and set it to some electric Chinese dance music and maybe if you watch that while strapped in a chair, your piined open, eating Taiwanese pork sausages in the dark with some strobe lights flashing, and the whole experience feels kind of disorienting and futuristic and maybe even just barely pre-apocalyptic, then you will understand what it’s like to go to the Big Pig Festival.
There was another, bigger festival over by the big temple near the Landseed Hospital. J and I went over the weekend and stuffed our faces with street food, but going solo, I lost my nerve the night of and decided to stick closer to home. You could also scooter out to Sanxia where the actual Zushi Temple is located. (Josh Ellis went in 2015 and it was AWESOME. Or at least his pics are.)
You’ll have to ask around for the date next year (six days after the first day of Ghost Month?), but here’s the temple where the festival was held in Zhongli, not too far from Sogo and Carrefour: