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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hong Kong Series at CantoneseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind holidays and observances in Hong Kong. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 12- Cheung Chau Bun Festival, or 太平清醮 in Cantonese.
This festival takes place on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar. It attracts plenty of locals and tourists alike to the outlying island called 長洲, so the island is always jam-packed with people on this day.
Now, before we get into more detail, I've got a question for you-
Do you know how many "lucky buns," or 平安包 there are on the bun mountain?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening!
Cheung Chau Bun Festival is a lively folk festival that is rich in local culture. It has even been listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of China since 2011.
The climax of this festival is the Flying Colors Parade. Each float in the parade has a different story-based theme, with one or two children dressed as ancient figures or legendary characters standing on top of it. During the parade, you can also enjoy dragon and lion dance performances in the street.
The date of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival used to be decided by a "cup-asking" ritual, but since 2001 the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar, which is also the Buddha’s Birthday, has been established as the day for this festival.
During the week-long celebration of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, killing animals and consuming meat is prohibited. This is so that people can cleanse themselves over the course of the festival, both physically and mentally.
Because of this rule, restaurants on Cheung Chau island only offer vegetarian food during this week. Even local McDonald's take meat off of the menu and serve mushroom burgers instead.
A main feature of this festival is the three huge bun mountains built in front of the main temple for ritualistic purposes. Each bun mountain is roughly 14 meters tall and 3 meters in diameter. The buns on these mountains are called "lucky buns," or 平安包 in Cantonese, and it’s believed that they are blessed and will bring peace and health to the family, as is implied by the name. After the ritual, the Bun-Snatching Competition, or 搶包山 in Cantonese, takes place. The buns are distributed for free in front of the temple the day after the competition, so you can get some of them if you visit the island during the festival. Many bakeries on the island also bake "lucky buns" to sell to tourists during that period.
In 1978, one of the bun mountains collapsed and injured more than 100 people. Consequently, the Bun-Snatching was cancelled until its restoration in 2005. The new bun mountains have steel scaffolding instead of bamboo, and only a limited number of contestants are allowed in order to avoid another similar incident.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know how many "lucky buns" there are on the bun mountain?
There are over 9,000 "lucky buns" hung on the bun mountains. Since 2007, the buns on the bun mountain for the competition have been replaced with plastic buns to avoid food wastage or in Cantonese 浪費食物.
How was this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Is there a holiday similar to the Bun Festival in your country?
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We'll see you next time!