‘Qiang Gu’ ghost grappling ceremony in urban Toucheng, east coast Taiwan.
The contest ever was (and still is) of teams clambering over each other to master the butter greased spires which lead them to a ten meters high canopy. Those few succeeding, are trying to make it up to the cone-shaped tips made of bamboo which are adorned with ghostly gifts and piled onto the platform. The first daredevil to cut off the flag that completes the towers makes his team a winner of… a brand new car, sponsored by the county – transportation – culture – forest – and communication ministries. Believing the tales of the elderly, it must have looked way more primitive back in the days, when solid men wrapped in tribal fashion were hasting unsecured towards the top in disregard of their fairly injured and bruised extremities.
Originally, the Qiang Gu ceremony was organized to fetch all the straying ’good brothers and sisters’ which after all the Pudu feasts were still on the loose. Many feared, that the ghosts may have enjoyed the love bombing in the previous days a bit too much, and would therefore rather stick around here to trouble the living than meandering back to the inferno. The saga then indicates, that thanks to the very moment when the first contestant reaches the top of the bamboo trestles, the crowd breaks into cheers and screams, and together with the chanting of Taoist priests and loud drums, the ghosts would be scared to death and vanish. Time claimed the authenticity, and replaced it with a modified version. Now, safety nets and safety ropes are in place, moreover, are cranes at the ready to pluck the exhausted from the poles. Everything from snack stalls, sacrificial pigs with pineapples in their snouts, the offering tables, the truckload of hell money, even the Taoist priests, thus basically the whole event, seems to be backed by generous commercial banks, car dealers and electronic companies.