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The birthday of water deity Pak Tai was celebrated on Wailingding Island on April 7 (the third day of the third lunar month) prefacing the annual Wanshan Archipelago Folk Culture Festival.
Pak Tai is also known as the Supreme Emperor of the North and as Emperor Xuan Wu. Legend goes that he prevents disasters because of a connection with water in Chinese five-element theory. For thousands of years, fisher folk have worshiped him as they sought favorable weather, family wellbeing, and safe passage upon the sea.
Lions frolic on Wailingding Island
Thousands of fishers, islanders, and visitors from elsewhere in the archipelago, Hong Kong, Macao, and other Pearl River Delta cities joined in the annual pageantry. It started with a lively Lion Dance at 10:30 am. As trumpets blew and drums beat, final touches were added to the lion's eye, a gesture said to bring it to life.
Pak Tai's Birthday Council members then carried roasted pigs, fruits, red eggs, and other sacrifices to Pak Tai Temple on Lingding Hill. There they greeted the god, burned incense sticks, and prayed for safety following a benediction ceremony.
Afterwards, the Lion Dance troupe circled the island. They went door to door grabbing lettuce (shēng cài, a homophone for making a fortune) and red envelopes (hóng bāo) held high in highly difficult movements. The performance is meant to bring wealth and good luck to merchants.
As natives and guests toasted their friendship and promising futures at a 100-table grand evening feast, a traditional charity auction added to the fun as jubilation spread throughout the island.
Roasted pigs [Photos by Chen Danfeng to Zhuhai Daily]