Struggle against evil sparks China ritual

Struggle against evil sparks China ritual
This picture taken on February 16, 2017 in Fangshan village in China's coastal province Fujians, shows a villager performig the 'eating flowers' ritual. Villagers in eastern China have a unique way of washing away the taint of evil spirits -- by bathing in a shower of scorching sparks.
PHOTO: AFP

FANGSHAN, China - Villagers in eastern China have a unique way of washing away the taint of evil spirits - by bathing in a shower of scorching sparks.

The ritual takes place in the city of Putian in Fujian province, where China's Hakka people are concentrated and hold extended celebrations for the annual Lantern Festival, which officially fell on February 11.

The ceremony in the village of Fangshan begins when eight local men selected by village elders don ancient-style Chinese dress to pray in a temple for protection from the Buddha.

Afterward, they remove the costumes and are escorted bare-chested to an adjacent square.

With eyes closed, they lean their faces into fireworks that spit out white sparks, which has given the ceremony its local name, "eating flowers".

Later, some of them twisted and turned to expose more of their bodies to burn away evil.

Read also: Playing with fire: Exorcising demons in Vietnam

"I wasn't myself when I was doing it," said Zheng Yinquan, alluding to his trance-like state.

Zheng, who left his college studies to take part after hearing that he had been selected, said he felt no pain.

"This is not a performance. It is a very serious ritual. We hope by doing this, we can pray for the safety of all families in the village," Zheng said.

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