By Emily King
Held only once every three years, Taiwan’s Boat Burning Festival is one of the most spectacular events on the planet. The event started this past Sunday and runs through October 21st, and is expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators to watch as the town of Donggang holds a grandiose bonfire to appease the gods.
The boat, handcrafted by local artisans and elaborately decorated, will be wheeled through the town of by a large crowd of volunteers. As the boat travels through the city, the ship symbolically collects bad luck and disease.
The ship is taken to the temple and filled with food and weapons to send to the gods, then wheeled down to the beach. Paper is piled up around the hull in a massive heap. As fireworks explode and gongs crash through the night, the ship goes up in flames and burns for hours next to the sea.
This festival is a unique opportunity for travelers to experience the ancient tradition of modern Taiwanese religion.