Chenggong Festival revives quake-stricken Hakka settlement in Nantou

Hakka Affairs Council (HAC) Minister Lee Yung-de attended the opening ceremony of the annual Chenggong Festival, which was held in Nantou’s Guoxing Township on Sept. 21 to also mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 21 Earthquake of 1999.

Minister Lee noted that Guoxing, which was severely devastated by the catastrophe two decades ago, has been reconstructed as a lively township by persevering local residents. The town is now one of the key development areas of Hakka culture. Lee highly praised the well-developed coffee industry that contributes to the unique features of Guoxing.

The festival attracts many visitors every year. It is expected that, through such festivities, the Hakka settlement can be revitalized and that the spirit of Hakka culture can be passed down, Lee added.

The Chenggong Festival, which literally means “to compete for success” in Mandarin, is one of the activities launched by the community under a government-initiated disaster area reconstruction plan after the 1999 earthquake.

The competition involves teams of nine people and battleship-shaped tricycles carrying a statue of Koxinga (鄭成功). One person steers the “ship” from the front while the other eight push it forward from behind. Each team must push a 600-kg ship and race 100 meters. 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 available flags. Whichever team grabs a flag first wins.

The three-day event has been recognized as one of Taiwan’s major Hakka festivals since 2009, and HAC offered a subsidy of NT$3 million for this year’s festival. In addition to the on-land battleship race, other activities include performances of Hakka flower drum groups, temple processions, and religious operas.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 21 Earthquake, Guoxing Township Office is also holding a series of activities to showcase the rebuilt town’s post-earthquake transformation and great achievements in terms of social welfare, culture, education, and industry.