Dragon Bombing event in Miaoli

Dragon Bombing,” an annual ritual held during the Lantern Festival, is unique to the Hakka people in Miaoli. It was introduced to Taiwan by Hakka immigrants from mainland China during the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911) and later became especially popular in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s a dragon-welcoming celebration that originated from the Chinese dragon dance. During the ritual, the performers maneuver the dragon in a dance while others set off a lot of firecrackers and beehive rockets to “kill” the evil spirits (get rid of what’s old) to welcome the New Year. It’s lively and exciting and is rich in Hakka characteristics. This event is also a precious traditional folk custom and one of the 12 major festivals of Taiwan Hakka villages.

Dragon Bombing event kicks off in Miaoli

In the early days, the Hakka families that migrated to Taiwan had to struggle for survival in a difficult environment. After the busy farming period is over at the end of the year, they would welcome the Lunar New Year by forming a "Dragon Team" and making the dragon used in the dance during this slack time of the year before the start of the new lunar year. Each year near the time of the Lantern Festival (the 15th day of the first lunar month), many dragon teams in Miaoli would begin to practice their dance while waiting for the family members who went out of the village to work, to return home to celebrate the New Year with their family. Before villagers begin to till the land again and others venture out to work after the Lantern Festival ends, the dragon dance is carried out to welcome the dragon to the community and greet the New Year.

During the dance, people pray for a disaster-free year, good weather, and an abundant harvest. They also turn the dragon dance into a "welcoming the dragon" activity. It is hoped that the dragon will bring auspiciousness as well as peace and good fortune to the people. While there are dragon dance performances all over Taiwan, only Miaoli has the custom of bombing the dragon. This event is naturally combined with the temple celebrations and is held every year in the front square of Miaolis Yuqing Temple (玉清宮), enriching the cultural displays and lively atmosphere there.

For Taiwan’s Hakka people, a Lunar New Year celebration starts from the first day of the first lunar month and doesn’t end until the fifteenth day. Hakka people call the Lantern Festival "the half of the first month" or "Light Festival." A Hakka saying has it that "the 15th day of the first month is more important than celebrating the New Year.” This shows that the Hakka people’s celebrations during the Lantern Festival are livelier than that of the New Year. In addition to eating Hakka glutinous rice balls during the festival, they also eat radish buns, enjoy viewing the Festival’s lanterns, solve riddles, and practice other festival customs. On this day, all celebrating activities will culminate in the most important tradition of "Dragon Bombing.” The event not only means welcoming the arrival of spring and wishing for happiness, it also has the profound meaning of keeping traditional customs and passing on the cultural heritage.


Seven Stages of the "Bombing the Dragon" Event


The dragon is made by the dragon master with bamboos and paper, and is completed before the ninth day of the first lunar month (the legendary Jade Emperor’s birthday).

Walking with the dragon

The “Hakka Dragon Altar” is set up and then the ceremony of settling the dragon spirit is held.

Dragon eye-dotting

People pray to the God of Heaven to give spirit to the dragon body they have made, and have the dragon dance through the village to provide protection for the people and to bless them.

Welcoming the dragon

The Hakka people believe that a visit from the Divine Dragon or "Shenlong (神龍)" means a “visit from the Gods” and that this can provide protection against local disasters and bring good luck to the household in the New Year.

Following the dragon

Following the dragon on its dance procession is believed to bring peace and good fortune.

Dragon bombing

As the dragon gets more and more prosperous, people set off firecrackers as a way of welcoming the dragon. It is believed that this also drives away the evil spirits and at the same time increases the festive atmosphere of the festival.

Sending the dragon back to the sky

At the end of the Lantern Festival and to thank the Gods for sending their spirits embodied in the dragon down to earth to bless the people, Hakka people set the dragon ablaze to symbolize its mission has been completed, upon which they then send the divine dragon back to heaven.