Shamanic Trances and Feats of Endurance: A Festival For the Wily Monkey King
Why We Recommend it
The Monkey King’s Birthday (Cai4 Tin1 Daai6 Sing3 Cin1 Cau1 齊天大聖千秋) is a major event for the local Chiu Chow community but often passes unnoticed as it is overshadowed by the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Falling on the 16th day of the eighth lunar month, the Monkey King Festival is a unique slice of Chiu Chow culture that includes shamans, trances and incredible feats of endurance.
The festival celebrates the Handsome Monkey King, known respectfully as Tai Shing (Cai4 Tin1 Daai6 Sing3 齊天大聖): Great Sage, Equal of Heaven. He is a universally loved–yet rebellious–character in the Chinese diaspora and beyond. Thrown out of Taoist heaven for his wily deeds, he regains Buddhist immortality by helping a monk bring scriptures from India to China.
The festival in Sau Mau Ping is famous for spirit mediums that put themselves through ordeals that symbolise the trials faced by the Monkey King on his voyage to India. The mediums fall into a trance and become possessed by the god, allowing them to walk through burning coals and climb a ladder of knives. While there is one chief medium, others also become possessed and cut their tongues with broken glass and perform other magical acts, such as handling boiling oil.
Today, people mainly remember the Monkey King by burning incense and paper offerings during his festival.