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Taiwanese Taoists Celebrate the Birth...
Kaohsiung
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

In Taiwan, it is traditional in Taoist belief to celebrate the birthday of deities according to the lunar calendar date. Today was the birthday of Tian Du Yuanshuai (meaning Marshal 'paddy field' Du), who's divine role is to be protector of Chinese regional opera. Many members of opera troupes in Taiwan revere him.

According to the legend, Marshal Tian Du was abandoned in a paddy field as a baby. Chinese mitten crabs came to his aid, saving his life by feeding him saliva through bubbles. For this reason, he is often depicted with a crab symbol on his forehead and his devotees will not eat crab out of respect.

These celebrations for gods and deities last for the day of the birthday and are usually accompanied by the unmistakeable brash, shrill sound of the suona wind instrument; a sound which is punctuated by the resounding thud of firecrackers being set off en masse. A figurine of the deity who is enjoying their birthday will be carried through the street, sometimes firecrackers are set off under the figure and followers may deliberately expose themselves to the searing force of the firecrackers as a sign of their devotion.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Huge plumes of smoke reach to the sky as followers of Tian Du Yuanshuai set off a mass of firecrackers under a figurine of the deity. The devotees then beat on a drum and march forth.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The cavalcade for Tian Du Yuanshuai. A temple-goer wheels sacred weavings down the road.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The cavalcade for Tian Du Yuanshuai. A temple-goers wheels sacred items down the road. Behind him the powerful symbol of the tiger.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Smoke fills the air in a busy road in Kaohsiung as the cavalcade for Tiandou Yuanshuai marches forth, intermittently setting of these huge gunpowder explosions.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Exhuausted from the day's exertions, a Tiandou Yuanshuai follower takes a rest on the blackened effigy of Marshal Tian Du, which they have been parading down the road and setting off masses of firecrackers under.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Celebration of Tian Du Yuanshuai's birthday. The remnants of used firecrackers are kicked aside to prepare for more explosive celebrations.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The cavalcade for Tiandou Yuanshuai. Taoist devotees take a break from wheeling a golden gong down the road.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Figure of Tian Du Yuanshuai bearing his name "田都元帥" around his neck.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Players of the traditional Chinese instrument the suona, which often accompanies deity's birthday celebrations.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

The sign bears the name of the Taiwanese Taoist temple that this group represents. The air is filled with the smoke of huge firecracker explosions.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Experienced player of the traditional Chinese instrument the suona, which often accompanies deity's birthday celebrations.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Celebration of Tian Du Yuanshuai's birthday. Three temple brothers with traditional tiger face paint.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Tian Du Yuanshuai is paraded down the road in Kaohsiung

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Close up of the face of a figure representing Tian Du Yuanshuai, the deity of regional Chinese and Taiwanese opera. The legend says he was saved as an infant by crabs, who fed him on their saliva; hence, he has a crab symbol on his forehead. His followers and many members of opera troupes will not eat crab out of respect for the saviours of their sacred Marshal Tian Du.

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Tin Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotee of Tiandou Yuanshuai, face blackened by ash and marked by searing firecrackers. Behind him the effigy of Marshal Tian Du which they have been parading down the road and setting off masses of firecrackers under.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Figure of Tiandou Yuanshuai and temple-goer with traditional suona instrument under his arm.

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Tian Du Yuanshuai
By Benedict Young
15 Jun 2014

Devotees of Tian Du Yuanshuai, faces blackened by ash. They have been carrying an effigy of Marshal Tian Du through the streets, occasionally setting off huge numbers of firecrackers under the effigy and standing right next to the explosion as it rocks the area and covers them in ash.

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Taiwan
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