Lugang's Tianhou Temple (天后宮) is not on the official circuit for the Jen Lann Temple Matsu Pilgrimage (but nearby Zhanghua's Nanyao Temple...is). Both temples are quite old, quite famous, quite prestigious, and quite a part of the deeply knit old Hoklo communities here - and quite involved with local "brotherhoods" (Jen Lann Gong more so - so I hear).
As you can imagine, the two temples have something of a rivalry, although it's nothing compared to Yunlin's Xingang and Beigang Matsu temples.
As such, when Jen Lann Temple's festival starts up, Tianhou has its own festival the next day, and it's quite a good one. We were lucky to catch it - unlike the Jen Lann Gong Matsu Pilgrimage kick-off - in good weather.
This festival was more traditional than ones you see in Taipei - when I finally finish editing my film footage I'll be able to explain why in better detail, with clearer examples.
For one, though, there were far more spirit mediums. Three in this group, and several more throughout the festival, including some in costumes and some without, and some women (which is not common - I've never seen a female spirit medium in Taipei, although maybe I'm just not looking hard enough).
The guy above is facing Thousand Mile Eyes, the green demon of Matsu's two demon-turned-good-guy attendants.
The first of two Ji Gong spirit mediums, the night before the big festival.
These guys are carrying the sedan chair for Hu Ye (Ho Ya in Taiwanese), the Tiger God who sits beneath Tudi Gong, the Earth God. They're among my favorites - I have a great video in the clips I'm editing of them exploding a mound of firecrackers underneath the idol.
You've seen lion dances before, I bet, but I love this photo.
I tried to get a few more photos of people rather than "things" in this festival - here are a few that I did get -
With the blinding sun, though, it was hard to get good, clear photos without too much glare. Sadly, rather like a typhoon, one does not get to decide when a festival comes in.
Everyone loves the San Tai Zi, or "God's 3 children". Yes, they're dancing to Gangnam Style.
I have no idea why this spirit medium is sucking on a pacifier. I haven't seen that before. Longer-term Taiwan folks: is this a thing?
These guys are praying for no storms, good rain and sun. and good farming. It's all a part of a very traditional chant and ceremonial - more ceremonial than usual - burning of money for spirits. To me, the song sounded dark and ominous. To Taiwanese friends I've played the video for, however, it sounded perfectly normal, not scary at all.
This guy was the second of two Ji Gong spirit mediums we saw.
A woman possessed like a spirit medium, but not injuring herself.
A member of the crowd is also possessed. This happens sometimes. It sort of happened to me in Donggang, very briefly, although that was probably a combination of heat exhaustion, pounding waves, drums and heat.
This guy is writing "god characters" in the air and using the whip to scare away bad ghosts and spirits.
Passing the idols over incense before bringing them out.
What follows after this are just some atmosphere shots of Lugang - Zhongshan Road, the old street, Tianhou, Longshan and Dizang Wang temples...if you're not really into that, you can stop here. But I felt the shots were good enough to warrant posting, so if you just want to enjoy some pretty pictures (or haven't seen Lugang before), enjoy.
Longshan Temple at sunset (Lugang, not Taipei)
Tianhou Temple at night
Fish eggs being laid out for sale - typically eaten with white turnip, scallion and maybe a touch of garlic.
I'm an American woman living and working in Taipei, Taiwan. I work in corporate training, travel frequently, drink far too much coffee and alcohol (often together). I love reading, photography and exploring any city I find myself in. I have a lovely husband, Brendan and a fat, insane cat named Zhao Cai. I write quite a bit about being a female expat and women's issues in Asia, as well as travel, hiking, photography and food - with a few personal anecdotes thrown in.