Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || The Most Dangerous Festival in the World? 

Your Ultimate Guide to the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival in Taiwan: Expect the Unexpected

The Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival has been given the title of the third-largest folk celebration in the world and is Taiwan’s largest religious event.

It has been awarded the title of not only one of the world’s top 10 best festivals, but also one of the world’s top 10 most dangerous festivals. 

On par with Spain’s running of the bulls, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people flock annually to the small town of Yanshui on the final days of Chinese New Year celebrations; also known as Lantern Festival (元宵节).

But it’s not speeding angry bulls that make this festival dangerous.

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival sets off something arguably much less predictable than a charging bull…

Indeed, people actively try to get hit by the hundreds of thousands of exploding fireworks as they stand alongside walls and barricades of rockets. 

This ‘baptism’ of fireworks the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival offers is seen as a way to get rid of bad luck and indeed bring good luck in the coming year as the Chinese New Year festival ends and the new year officially begins. 

We went to find out what all the fuss is about (and lived to tell the… strange tale). 

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Introduction

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Origins

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Yanshui 

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Preparation 

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || The Festival

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Yuejin Lantern Festival

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Getting There (and Around)

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Taking Part; Must-Know!

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || FAQs

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Introduction

Fireworks around the time of Chinese New Year are no unusual thing. In the build-up to Chinese New Year, as well as for a few days after, the familiar sound of fireworks can be heard day and night throughout Taiwan and Mainland China.

In Taiwan, it’s not uncommon to see temple workers parading through the streets holding statues of their respective deities and occasionally setting off fireworks as they go. 

But the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is different. It’s in a league of its own. 

Not only are the fireworks so densely concentrated like nowhere else in Taiwan, but these fireworks are actually directly shot at participants The festival is so dangerous that there have been numerous calls to have it banned.

But its historical, cultural, and religious significance means that it remains at least for another year. Annually there are varying numbers of those who need hospitalisation.

However, the number has stayed pretty balanced over the years as the festival grows in popularity but safety conditions also (slightly) improve.

It’s more down to the individual to prepare and make sure they have the correct protective clothing and are fully aware of what they’re getting in for.

⚠️ Aside from obvious burn threats from getting up close, the actual threats lie in getting shot when unsuspectingly standing much further away. Or worse – getting a rocket trapped inside the helmet and visor you’ll be wearing. This can cause temporary blindness and loss of hearing. All of a sudden, superficial burn wounds don’t sound so bad… 

Don’t worry, we cover how to prepare for the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival below. 

For now, it’s time to take a look at what the festival actually entails, why hundreds of thousands continue to flock to it every year, and why on earth it’s a festival in the first place… 

Celebrating Moon Festival in Taiwan || A Complete Guide Thumbnail

Celebrating Moon Festival in Taiwan || A Complete Guide

Like other traditional Taiwanese holidays, the date of Moon Festival/mid-autumn festival is on August 15th of the Lunar calendar.

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Origins

The Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival has its origins in the Qing Dynasty.

Yanshui, which we will discuss further below, used to be a very prominent fishing port. During this time, many fishermen from Fujian in mainland China would come here to trade and make their living through fishing. 

During Emperor Guangxi’s reign, a plague (or cholera) broke out and many hundreds were dying or falling ill. At this time, there was no Western medicine yet to cure these illnesses and it was normal to turn to deities for help. 

The people turned to Guan Gong (關聖帝君), the God of War.

He instructed the people that on the final day of the Lunar New Year celebrations, they should circle the town with his statue. They should also set off fireworks along the way. It is said that after the townspeople did this, the town was cured of the disease and thus the tradition has been upheld annually. 

When fireworks pass through the town and hit both people and shops it is said to bring great luck and fortune in the coming year. Yay! 🎉

This festival is not for the faint-hearted!

People devoted to religion also choose to build their own ‘beehives’.

These giant structures are known as beehives as they are big walls full of fireworks and then once set off emit the sound of thousands of bees. It is said that only when someone builds a beehive for three or more consecutive years will they begin to reap the benefits of their devotion. 

Despite the beehives being pretty pricey (around 2,000 USD) to build and taking about 1 month of labour, locals argue that the benefits gained from setting off the beehives far outweigh any losses during this time.

Locals will note that those others who don’t build the beehives often have shortcomings and bad luck at work. 

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Yanshui

Yanshui, where Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is held, is located in northern Tainan, about 35km outside Tainan City centre and closer almost to Chaiyi. 

Yanshui 盐水 (Yánshuǐ) translates to ‘salt water’, a name given for its prominence as a maritime town and geographical proximity to the sea. It’s one of Taiwan’s oldest towns and whilst previously best known for its fishing, today it’s famous throughout Taiwan for the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival.

If you decide to visit the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, then it’s worth first taking a look at Yanshui itself.

You can have a stroll through its old streets, enjoy early-period buildings which were once merchant’s houses and visit the Octagon Building (八角樓), a two-floor building constructed in 1847.

It’s also worth taking a look at Yongcheng Theatre. This is located in the south of Yanshui. It’s a resorted rice mill that then became a local movie theatre that would host plays and films. 

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Yuejingang Riverside Park area is then a great place for a walk along the riverside, especially during the lantern festival period. 

👉 Yanshui’s famous cuisines are Yimian and Pig Head Rice.

Yimian is famous noodles with beansprouts and pork gravy, and 阿姬意麵 (Ā jī yì miàn) is the famous place to try them here. If you’re brave enough to try the Pig head rice 豬頭飯 (zhūtóu fàn) then you won’t be in for a disappointment!

Yanshui is also famous for its super sweet cherry tomatoes – that you’ll see covered in sugar. Kind of healthy, I guess? 

But in reality, you’re here in Yanshui for the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival. So, let’s get onto that now. 

Want to study Chinese in Tainan and even live with a local family? Check our our course options for Studying Chinese in Tainan!

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Preparation 

Before heading into the festival, it’s absolutely critical that you prepare.

As far as this festival is concerned, there is no such thing as being over-prepared. It is no secret that many people are hospitalised annually.

Attending this festival is not to be taken lightly and you should be prepared at all times, not just when you’re standing near a wall of fireworks. 

Even if you keep far back, there is a chance at any point that something could hit you. 

The following things are required:

⚠️ Full headgear: a motorbike helmet WITH a visor. 

⚠️ Fireproof clothing is suggested. Otherwise, thick cloth clothing and many thick layers. 

⚠️ Towels or bits of cloth to cover up bits of skin i.e. on wrists, ankles, and neck. 

⚠️ Cardboard or something else protective is suggested for more sensitive areas, including *those bits* as well as your neck. 

⚠️ Duct tape is also useful to make sure that every area is covered up and nothing is showing. 

If you have arrived at the festival unprepared, fear not. There are many vendors as you get closer who will sell you big coats etc to get you nice and protected. 

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || The Festival 

The Yanshui Beehives

Beehives are generally made of pine and the number of rockets they hold depends on their size. They can cost anything from 1,500 USD to much, much more as they grow in size. One of 1.2 square meters in size with a depth of 20 centimetres holds around 2,000 rockets.

They are called beehives simply for the fact that they are large structures full of rockets. These rockets are lit simultaneously and their collective sound is like a colony of bees. It is these ‘beehives’ that form a wall of fireworks that shoot directly AT the people.

Indeed, the participants actively attempt to stand closely to run through them or just to get hit. 

It’s intense.

Apart from the vast crowds of people, you’ll find yourself in, you also won’t be able to breathe for the smoke AND you’ll probably be being constantly plummeted by fireworks.

If you regret your decision to join, it’s pretty much just too bad, as there is basically no escape. If you try to leave this crowded space chances are you’ll only get pushed further forwards. Once you’re in, there’s no turning back. 

Stay protected. 

Try to focus on all that good fortune (and fireworks) coming your way.

Have you been to the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival? Tell us about your experience in the comments section!

The Yanshui Event

Aside from the rockets and fireworks, this is an entire festival.

The whole town is lit up with festivities, including DJs, street vendors serving all kinds of foods, a small firework display, and so many other festivities. 

It’s truly a unique way to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Taiwan. 

Yanshui First Night 

Since the Lantern Festival goes on over two days (the 14th and 15th days in the Lunar Calendar), this festival also lasts for two days.

The first day is the more ‘local’ day. On this day, the fireworks will be located more around the outskirts of the city and will not parade in the middle. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty darn big. 

On this day, the deity departs Emperor Guan Temple in the holy sedan chair and is paraded through Yanshui. Locals follow this parade and set off firework racks as they go and people set off fireworks from their doorways as they pass by.

Yanshui Second Night 

The second night of the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is generally the one the tourists come for.

Parades are held more centrally and are much more dramatic. On this day, there will also be the ‘grand finale’ held at a specific location, for example, a high school. 

Firstly, two racks of 400,000 fireworks are set off. Then, the main rack of fireworks (600,000) is set off and participants will run through this attempting to clear themselves of their bad luck and fortune for that year. 

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Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Yuejin Lantern Festival

Whilst you’re heading to Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival for the event, you should not miss the nearby Yuejin Lantern Festival

This is located at the Yanshui port and riverside area. It showcases a variety of light installations highlighting the port’s history and culture. 

This is not only on during Lantern Festival but usually throughout Chinese New Year celebrations. 

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Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Getting There (and Around)

It can be very difficult to travel both into and around Yanshui during this period. Many people recommend going with a local or someone who has been before as it’s easy to get lost in the area and public transport is tricky. 

It will be difficult for those driving to get anywhere close by and it is recommended to go via scooter. 

Public Transport 

The nearest train station is Xinying Train Station.

From Xinying Train Station, walk to the bus stop right across the train station.

Take the bus (Brown Line, Brown No. 1, Brown No. 2, Brown No. 3) to Yanshui and get off there.

👉 Remember to take note of the last train departing back to Tainan as it is usually before 12 am.  

Driving to Yanshui 

Traffic control will be implemented in downtown Yanshui from 15:00.

Private vehicles and buses can only park/stop outside the downtown area – about a 10-minute walk from the fireworks area.

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || Taking Part: Must-Know!

It is vital to prepare accordingly. Otherwise, you cannot go anywhere close to the area. 

There will be extra local police on hand during the day in case something happens. Make sure you are aware of where they are stationed. 

Be prepared to be hurt – or at least incredibly uncomfortable. 

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Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival || FAQs 

Can foreigners enjoy the Yanshui Beehive Festival?

Yes! It’s popular with foreigners.

But in order to navigate the festival easily and safely, we’d recommend going with a local.

When is the Yanshui Beehive Festival?

Every year the Yanshui Beehive Festival falls on the Lantern Festival (14th/15th of the Lunar Calendar).

Is the Yanshui Beehive Festival dangerous?

It can be, yes. You must prepare in advance and wear appropriate protective clothing.

How to get to the Yanshui Fireworks Festival?

You can get public transport nearby or drive to the local area and walk.

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