Taiwan festival celebrates raunchy tradition ... with pole dancers

Dozens of pole dancers performed on ornate neon floats at a festival in Taipei on Saturday in celebration of one of the island's more eyebrow raising cultural traditions.

The event sought to promote Taiwan's famous dianzi huache or "electronic flower trucks", travelling floats loaded with garish lights in the shape of everything from dragons to ferris wheels.

The trucks are used to take performers, usually scantily-clad women and musicians, to private and public events, including weddings and even funerals, and are particularly popular in smaller towns and rural areas.

The tradition, dating back to the 1970s, reflects Taiwan's folk religion and culture, which is a unique mixture of the spiritual and the earthly.

For some, the trucks and their colourful performers are seen as the best way to create maximum fun and noise at important events.

But critics dismiss them as vulgar and tawdry.

Over the decades, performances on the trucks usually featured striptease, with pole dancing a more recent addition.

Stripping nude is rarely seen in public now because it is a criminal offence, but partial stripping is still often performed, even at grave sites.

Spokeswoman Wang Yi-ting said Saturday's "Taiwan Colour Stage Fest", which is in its second year, aimed to bring the flower truck tradition to the capital, where it is less known than in central and southern Taiwan.

Pole dancers performed to pop music on 22 trucks at a square near the capital's landmark skyscraper Taipei 101 as the crowds enjoyed snacks and free beer, despite the rain.

There was no stripping and dancers were instructed to wear "more conservative" outfits, Wang said.

"We also want to encourage people in this unique and traditional performing business who are concerned about being eliminated in today's diverse and digitalised entertainment industry," Wang added.

The event was partly inspired by a book by acclaimed Taiwanese photographer Shen Chao-liang, who travelled across the island to shoot the floats.