July 5, 2013
0720 TAIWAN - Ba Jia Jiang (Eight Generals)
To any religious event in Taiwan are present groups of young men with painted faces who wear elaborate costumes, a familiar sight to locals, even if no one really knows how they evolved or where they came from. They are members of the Ba Jia Jiang (Eight Generals) troupes, which have the role to keep evil spirits away by chasing them down and dealing with them. They carry elaborate fans with protection spells written on them, and the smiles aren't permitted. It seems that this tradition dates over 100 years and is closely associated with Wu Fu Da Di, the God of Plague Expulsion, but, as in any folk culture, there are many different tales describing their origins. Like Chinese Opera performers, the Ba Jia Jiang can be distinguished by their face paint, the different patterns serving to denote who they are. According to different heritages, the troupe can had four, six, eight, ten, twelve or thirteen members. The more complete group is with a number of thirteen Gods, who have different responsibilities.
Shih Yi, also known as Xing Ju Ye (God of torture instruments) is the director, checks the path and leads the troupe to worship and salute. Wen Chai (Civil Official), named also General Chen, and Wu Chai (Military Official), named also General Liu, are usually children or younger members, and are responsible to pass on Gods’ orders. The Front Four Members are Gan Ye (also known as the General Gan or Day Tour God), and Liu Ye (also known as General Liu or Night Tour God), both responsible for the execution of sentences; and Xie Ye (also known as General Xie or Catching Lord), and Fan Ye (also known as the General Fan or Arresting Lord), both responsible for catching ghosts and evils.
The Back Four Members (The Four Seasons Gods) are the Great Spring God (who wears blue gown with painted dragon face and is responsible for the section of waking up criminals in the interrogation of capture ghosts), the Great Summer God (who wears red gown with painted turtle face and is responsible for the section of burning criminals in the interrogation of capture ghosts), the Great Autumn God (who wears black gown with painted bird face and is responsible for the section of beating criminals in the interrogation of capture ghosts), and the Great Winter God (who wears blue gown with painted tiger face and is responsible for the section of threatening criminals in the interrogation of capture ghosts). The highest Gods in the medium position of the group are Wen Pan Guan (Civil Judger), charge of the book of “life and death”, and Wu Pan Guan (Military Judger), responsible for escorting ghosts.
Although Ba Jia Jiang serve as protectors, today they are synonomous with gangs, drugs and organised crime. Self-torture as well as fighting between rival troupes aren't uncommon. Boldness and cruelty are important aspects of the culture according to Chang Tso-chi, a film director whose 1996 documentary Ah-Chung chronicled the life of some of the teenagers involved in the Ba Jia Jiang troupes. Despite these aspects, the Ba Jia Jiang remain a popular, even if scary, aspect of Taiwanese culture.
About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting the Taroko National Park, is part of the series entitled Travel in Taiwan, about which I wrote here.
The second is part of a series of ten Personal Greeting Stamps - Everlasting Wealth, issued on May 27, 2011 and designed by Hung-tu Ko. Each contain a common Chinese auspicious phrase associated with a number from one to ten. Each of the designs will be printed in two denominations: 3.50 TWD and 5.00 TWD. The designs follow:
• A Singularly Harmonious Vibe: This expression describes the harmonious atmosphere radiated from amiable persons.
• Double Happiness: This expression suggests one joyful event after another.
• Blessings from the Three Stars: This expression conveys the good wishes of having lots of offspring, climbing up the career ladder and becoming wealthy, as well as having limitless good luck.
• Four is for Everything Goes as One Wishes: This expression is the Chinese people’s favorite phrase for offering good tidings.
• Bumper Crops of All Five Grains: This expression is used to describe the joy when a good harvest brings people plenty to eat. Today, it offers best wishes in one’s business endeavors.
• Spring in All Six Directions: This expression conveys the idea that everything is thriving.
• Seven is for A Match Made in Heaven: This expression offers best wishes for a match made in heaven - it's on this postcard
• The Eight Immortals Wish for Your Longevity: This expression has become a stock phrase at birthday parties.
• Nine Similes and Three Abundances: This expression is a way of praying that everything goes well in one’s life, family, and career.
• Ten Complete: The expression conveys a prayer for perfection in life and achieving one’s every goal.
The last one is part of the series Signature Taiwan Delicacies Postage Stamps – Home Cooked Dishes, issued on January 31, 2013. The series has four stamps with the same face values, 5.00 TWD:
• Gong Bao Chicken
• Mud Crab with Glutinous Rice Cake
• Three-Cup Chicken - it's on this postcard
• Hakka Stir-Fry
Ba-Jia-Jiang - Wikipedia
Ba-Jia-Jiang - Craig Ferguson Images
sender: Aurélie W. (direct swap)
sent from Tainan City (Taiwan), on 04.2013