Chenggong Festival

Guoxing Township is the largest Hakka settlement in Nantou County. Every autumn, a special festival is held here: Chenggong Festival. Nantou’s Guoxing Township was listed as one of the most seriously affected areas after Taiwan’s 921 Earthquake (aka Jiji Earthquake) struck on Sept. 21, 1999. For many years, the government has assisted local residents to bravely shake off the trauma of the quake and rebuild their lives. The annual Chenggong Festival is one of the activities launched by the community under the government-initiated disaster area reconstruction plan.

The festival, which is combined with Hakka culture, is enthusiastically embraced by the community, where residents have actively participated in it each year. It has also served as a source of encouragement for people whose lives were affected by the quake. As a result, the festival has grown in size and grandeur year by year. In 2009, it was selected by the Hakka Affairs Council as one of the major festivals of Hakka villages and communities.

The main activity of the festival is called "Competing for Success." It’s actually named after Zheng Cheng-gong (鄭成功), a Chinese Ming loyalist who resisted the Qing conquest of China in the 17th century, fighting Qing forces on China's southeastern coast. He eventually fled with his troops to Taiwan, defeating the Dutch occupiers at the time and forming the first Han Chinese government on the island.

As the word “success” in Chinese is the same as Zheng’s first and middle name “Cheng Gong,” the activity became known as Competition for Success or “Qiang Cheng Gong.” In the early days of Zheng Cheng-gong’s rule, there were not many Han Chinese who went to Nantou to cultivate the land because the indigenous tribes in the area did not welcome the Han settlers taking over land they considered theirs.

At that time, Zheng’s army was in the area now known as Guoxing Township to set up encampments to claim and develop what it considered unused land. It named the area Guoxing, after Zheng’s nickname Lord Guoxing (country’s surname), more commonly spelled as Koxinga. At that time, the Han people, including the Hakkas, began to move to this area, and Zheng Cheng-gong thus became Guoxing Township’s spiritual symbol.

The earliest design of the “Competition for Success" was modeled after on Zheng Cheng-gong’s voyage crossing the Taiwan Strait from southeastern China to Taiwan. Combining with local history and culture, it developed into a unique on-land race of battleships. The competition involves each team of nine people carrying a battleship-shaped tricycle carrying a statue of Zheng Cheng-gong. One person steers the “ship” from the front while the other eight people push it forward from behind. Each team must push a 600 kg ship and race 100 km. At the last stretch of the race, one member of each team dashes up a large net made of ropes to grab one of two flags. Whichever team grabs a flag first wins. The competition is not only a test of each team’s physical strength but also its members’ ability to work together. Every year, people from all over the country are attracted to this festival and enthusiastically participate in this competition.

Besides this competition, there are traditional temple activities such as pilgrimage blessings. Also enthusiastically participating in the parade are various temple parade leaders such as giant caricatures of the deity Third Prince dancing to techno music, “Ba Jia Jiang” (eight generals of the godly realm derived from the existence of eight generals who performed exorcism of evil spirits for the Wufu Emperor), various community song and dance performance troupes, flower drum teams, primary and secondary school cheerleading teams, and talent show teams. During the event, everyone does his or her best to “succeed” and each individual’s strength unifies the whole township. Tourists from other counties participating in this activity are often moved by the incomparable dedicated spirit of the festival.

The 2019 Chenggong Festival will be taking place from September 20-22 in Nantou’s Guoxing. As this year is the 20th anniversary of the Jiji Earthquake, the festival organizers invited various temples to hold joint ceremonies. In addition to expressing condolences for the loss of the earthquake victims, the festival also reminds future generations not to forget the spirit of rebuilding their homes with perseverance.