CHEUNG CHAU BUN FESTIVAL 2017 (Main events - Piu Sik Parade and Bun Scrambling Competition Wednesday 3rd May 2017)
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is one of Hong Kong's major cultural events and takes place during a three week period, culminating with the Piu Sik Parade ("Floating Children Parade") and finals of the Bun Scrambling Competition on the 8th day of the fourth moon in the lunar calendar, which is also the Buddha's Birthday and a public holiday in Hong Kong. The festival, also known as the Jiao Festival has, since June 2011, been one of four cultural events in Hong Kong which have been placed on the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Culture national list of intangible cultural heritage. The festival is held in honour of Pak Tai, the Daoist deity and god of the north and is intended to purify the community and pacify the spirits of islanders who died in the plague of 1894. The plague was finally wiped out after Pak Tai’s image had been paraded through the streets of the island. The 2017 Bun Festival is jointly organised by the Hong Kong Cheung Chau Bun Festival Committee and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department with the support of the Cheung Chau Wai Chiu County Association Limited, the Cheung Chau Rural Committee, the Islands District Office and the Hong Kong Mountaineering Union, and sponsored by Lukfook Jewellery, Watsons Water and the Islands District Council.
"Floating" children are a highlight of the spectacular Piu Sik Parade
Until 1964 the festival was celebrated at Tung Wan (East Bay) Beach but since 1965 the focal point has been the Pak Tai Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples, built in 1783. The event has become a major attraction for thousands of visitors from Hong Kong and overseas and in recent years up to 70,000 visitors have joined the island’s 30,000 population during the festival period. A makeshift theatre is erected opposite the temple for Chinese opera performances and other events throughout the festival include lion and dragon dances, martial arts performances and variety shows. Tradition dictates that for three days of the festival only vegetarian food is eaten with meat and seafood only becoming available after all the buns have been removed from the tower. However whilst visitors will find that restaurants take meat off the menu and McDonalds offers veggie burgers, the vegetarian tradition is nowadays mainly observed by indigenous islanders with many shops and food vendors cashing in on the tourist market.
The main events are the Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade and the Bun Scrambling Competition which traditionally take place on the 8th day of the fourth moon in the lunar calendar (3rdMay in 2017). The colourful street parade from 2pm to 4pm attracts huge crowds. At the 2016 festival, the number of visitors travelling to the island on the day of the parade and Bun Scrambling Competition was about 26,000, an increase from about 24,000 the previous year when the Bun Scrambling Competition was cancelled owing to adverse weather. The parade features “floating” children representing revered gods and current political figures, and who are carried shoulder high, appearing to be unsupported in mid-air. The 2013 parade first broke with tradition by featuring a non-Chinese child in the parade in a concession to promotion of healthy eating when two British brothers, aged 6 and 5 depicted British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and a farmer. The parade is accompanied by over 20 decorated floats, musicians, flag-bearers, gongs. At the front of the procession red sedan chairs carry deities from all the temples on Cheung Chau, led by Pak Tai.
Colourful characters in a previous year's parade passing along the harbourside San Hing Praya Street
Map of the parade route;
The Bun Scrambling Competition is the climax of the Cheung Chau Bun Carnival.
Until 1978 the Bun Scrambling Competition had been a “free for all” but during that year’s competition one of the three bamboo towers collapsed resulting in injuries to over 100 people and the competition was suspended for 27 years and the buns handed out instead. In 2005 the competition was reintroduced but under strict safety conditions. The three bamboo towers have been replaced by a single steel tower and the number of climbers is limited to twelve who undergo training from Hong Kong Mountaineering Union.
On the stroke of midnight the twelve participants race up the 14-metre tall, 3-metre diameter conical bun tower to grab as many buns as they can collect within the three minute time limit. The bun tower is divided into three zones from top to bottom and buns each carry a score of nine, three and one respectively. Words in green, yellow and red are printed on the bottom of the buns for identification. The scores for male and female contenders are ranked separately. The contestants who obtain the highest total score in three minutes are the champions. Trophies are awarded to the champion, first runner-up and second runner-up in the men's team event the champion in the women's team event and the winning teams in the Bun Scrambling Invitation Relay. The "Full Pockets of Lucky Buns" award is given to the participant who grabs the most buns.
All contestants have to follow the rules of the competition. They are not allowed to carry any hard objects or any objects that can be used as offensive weapons. They must scramble up vertically and are forbidden to climb sideways or climb with the aid of others and are not allowed to pull other participants' clothing or safety gear or step on any parts of other participants' bodies.
In order to increase the appeal of the event, a Grand Award has been introduced with effect from the 2016 competition under which any male or female athlete who has won first prize three times in the Bun Scrambling Competition will become the "King of Kings" or "Queen of Queens" of the competition.
The real buns on the tower have been replaced by 9,000 plastic replica “buns” for reasons of hygiene. Redemption coupons are issued to spectators and these can be used to claim one of the replica buns as a souvenir with the remaining “buns” being cleaned and saved to be re-used the following year. The following day about 20,000 real white buns with lotus, red bean or sesame fillings, are made by local bakeries, each stamped in red with "Ping An" the Chinese character for peace, are handed out. In a further concession to public health precautions, at the 2011 carnival, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department banned the practice of the local bakeries stamping the buns outside their premises and lack of space inside the bakeries resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of buns baked. However, since the 2012 carnival the Department has issued temporary licences to bakeries allowing tables to be set up outside their premises, where buns could be stamped with the message for peace. For the 2016 festival, for the first time on Cheung Chau a food processing machine was used speed up making the buns. The HK$400,000 machine, brought in by the owner of Kwok Kam Kee Cake Shop which produces about 60,000 buns each year for the festival, was manufactured by Rheon of Japan and can produce 20 buns a minute, double the number which can be made by hand.
2017 CHEUNG CHAU BUN FESTIVAL EVENTS
9th April - 9am to 7-30pm - 200 climbers for the individual event receive training on bun tower climbing and from 10am to 1pm Bun Scrambling Competition Invitation Relay participants receive training on bun tower climbing from China Hong Kong Mountaineering and Climbing Union at Pak Tai Temple Soccer Pitch.
16th April - 2pm to 6pm - selection contest for the 12 Bun Scrambling Competition finalists at Pak Tai Temple Soccer Pitch
22nd April - noon until 6pm - Climbing Carnival at Pak Tai Temple Playground Soccer Pitch
30th April to 3rd May - 7-30pm to 11pm - Chinese Opera Performances at Pak Tai Temple Plaza
2nd May - 2-30pm to 3-15pm - Lion and Unicorn Dances at Pak Tai Temple Plaza
3rd May - 10-30am - Unicorn and Kung Fu Performance at Pak Tai Temple Plaza
3rd May - 2pm to 4pm - Piu Sik Parade - for route see;
*3rd May - 11-30pm to 12-30am (4th May) - Bun Scrambling Competition at Pak Tai Temple Soccer Pitch
4th May - 9am - Distribution of Buns at Pak Tai Temple Plaza
4th May - 2pm - Ceremony to return the deities on Cheung Chau to their temples
* Admission to the Bun Scrambling Competition is by ticket only. Four spectator zones will be set up on the night at the soccer pitch of Pak Tai Temple Playground, which can accommodate about 1,650 people. Members of the public are requested to queue up at Pak She First Lane, next to Cheung Chau Fire Station, and along Ping Chong Road to get free admission tickets. The distribution of tickets will start at 10pm. Each person can obtain one ticket on a first-come, first-served basis while tickets last. Spectators who have got their tickets should wait for instructions from the Police and staff of the organisers for admission, which is expected to start from 10.30pm. Spectators should enter Zone 1 to Zone 4 in sequence.
Notices will be posted at Central Pier 5 informing the public of the schedule and arrangements of the event. Notices and enquiry counters will also be set up at Cheung Chau Ferry Pier and the entrance of Pak Tai Temple Playground, where staff will be on hand to address public enquiries.
Competitors in the 2016 Men's Final
The attendance for the 2016 Bun Scrambling Competition was just over 1,000 and the competition results were;
Championship: Yip Kin-man 1029 marks
First runner-up: Kwok Chun-yin 979 marks
Second runner-up: Kwok Ka-ming 885 marks
Championship: Wong Ka-yan 438 marks
Winner of "Full Pockets of Lucky Buns":
Kwok Chun-yin (Number of buns grabbed: 131)
2016 Championship winners Wong Ka-yan and Yip Kin-man
Cheung Chau Sai Wan Ma Sing Temple
Management Association: 3 minutes and 3 seconds
HK & KLN Floating Fishermen Welfare
Cheung Chau Branch: 3 minutes and 10 seconds
2017 CHEUNG CHAU BUN CARNIVAL WEBSITE;
Cheung Chau is served by the First Ferry service from Central Pier 5 on Hong Kong Island, Maris Ferry Company service from Aberdeen Promenade on Hong Kong Island and also by the First Ferry Inter-Island ferry service which connects Cheung Chau with Chi Ma Wan and Mui Wo on Lantau Island and Peng Chau.
TIMETABLES AND FARES;
CENTRAL TO CHEUNG CHAU
Visitors intending to take the “Fast Ferry” service should arrive at the pier well before departure time. Passengers are counted on board and standing is not allowed. The “Fast Ferry” may leave before scheduled departure time if full. On 3rd May 2017 demand is very high and additional ferry services operate with the number of sailings increased to 5 or 6 per hour at peak times.
First Ferry Triple-Deck Ordinary Ferry from Central at Cheung Chau Ferry Pier
SPECIAL TRANSPORT ARRANGEMENTS FOR VISITORS RETURNING FROM CHEUNG CHAU TO CENTRAL AFTER THE BUN SCRAMBLING COMPETITION;
First Ferry operates an additional “Ordinary Ferry” service from Cheung Chau to Central at 1-15am , after the conclusion of the Bun Scrambling Competition.
From 1-10am to 2-30am a special cross-harbour bus service 104R operates from Central Pier 5 to Mongkok.
From midnight to 2-30am , night bus services N8X (to Siu Sai Wan), N90 (to South Horizons), N182 (to Sha Tin) and N619 (to Shun Lee, Kwun Tong), which all originate from Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan, are diverted to call at Central Pier 5.
MARIS FERRY SERVICE FROM ABERDEEN PROMENADE;
For more information on Outlying Island Ferry Services see FERRIES-OUTLYING ISLANDS
ACCOMMODATION ON CHEUNG CHAU
Accommodation on Cheung Chau during the Bun Festival is likely to be difficult to find unless booked well in advance. Cheung Chau has one hotel, the 66-room three-star WARWICK HOTEL on Tung Wan Beach;
B&B CHEUNG CHAU is an excellent and popular modern guest house It has 14 rooms and 4 suites located at its main premises on Tung Wan Road just two minutes walk from the ferry pier and one minute from Tung Wan Beach, further rooms above Eggenberger Bar/restaurant opposite its main premises and elsewhere on Tung Wan Road and additional rooms including family rooms at Pak She Street near Pak Tai Temple. Advance booking essential;
Since opening in 2006 B&B Cheung Chau has rapidly become a popular choice for visitors looking for good quality budget accommodation on the island
MIAMI RESORT - budget accommodation in numerous flats near Tung Wan Beach. Miami Resort has booking kiosks outside Cheung Chau Ferry Pier;
SEAVIEW HOLIDAY FLATS have 10 flats in various locations. This is mainly basic budget accommodation although one de-luxe flat is available;
PRAYA STREET ACCOMMODATION BOOTHS. Located outside the ferry pier entrance are several kiosks which are usually manned from mid-morning and often until about midnight. These are operated by various owners including Seaview Holiday Flats (see above) offering flats ands room with budget accommodation. Visitors can view photographs of the accommodation in display albums at the stands.
In previous years Gray Line Tours of Hong Kong Limited have operated a Bun Festival Tour which includes private boat to Cheung Chau, vegetarian meal and reserved seats for the official grandstand for the afternoon parade. It is not known at this stage whether the tour will operate for the 2017 festival. See the special events page of the company's website for latest information;