Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival

Don your motorcycle helmet and your best non-flammable clothing. And don’t forget thick gloves, earplugs, and goggles. Make sure no flesh is exposed. This fireworks festival in the town of Yanshui in Tainan is not for the faint-hearted. Thousands of people in what looks like hazmat suits take to the streets and put themselves willingly in the way of exploding skyrockets. It’s a riot – smoky, ear-splitting, and heart-stoppingly fun.

The festival takes place on the 14th and 15th days of the Lunar New Year. An image of Guandi, the God of War, is paraded through the streets from the Martial Temple amidst much fiery fanfare. The highlight is the beehive fireworks – large cages filled with bottle rockets that are set off into the crowd, like a swarm of angry bees. You can go right up to the cages and let the rockets pop before your (protected) eyes or enjoy the proceedings from a safe distance, as many do.

The tradition originated in the 19th century when the town was plagued by sickness and the people begged Guandi to end the plague. Miraculously, Guandi paid a visit to Yanshui. Throngs of townsfolk gathered for his arrival, setting off firecrackers as they wound through every street, path, and alley. By dawn, the plague was history.