Hong Kong’s iconic bun scrambling competition was held on Cheung Chau on Friday – a public holiday for Buddha’s Birthday.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

It is the first time the Jiao Festival and bun scramble have been held in three years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Other celebrations included a kung fu show, and “Piu Sik,” which translates to “Floating Colours,” where children in fancy dress are held up on towering poles and paraded through the winding streets of the outlying island.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
Children dress as lawmaker Regina Ip and finance chief Paul Chan at the 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Traditionally, they dress up in satirical costumes, mimicking top officials, such as the chief executive. This year, some were spotted dressed as finance chief Paul Chan, and lawmakers Alice Mak and Regina Ip.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

According to RTHK, Sun Ferry said that 43,000 people had flocked to the island by 8pm.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The day culminated in a late-night scramble by competitors up a precipitous 18-metre “bun tower” made from imitation buns.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun scrambling contest festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau bun scrambling contest on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Chung Yuk-chuen won the men’s race with 954 marks, whilst Wong Ka-yan was the women’s event champion.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun scrambling contest festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau bun scrambling contest on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The “Full Pockets of Lucky Buns” race winner was Lai Wai-chun who collected 121 buns.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun scrambling contest festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau bun scrambling contest on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

According to the Hong Kong Intangible Cultural Heritage Database, the Jiao Festival has been practised for over a century.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“Legends say that Cheung Chau was devastated by a plague in the late Qing dynasty. To dispel the disaster, Huizhou and Chiu Chow natives invited accomplished monks and Taoist priests and set up a sacrificial altar in front of Pak Tai Temple to pray to deities, repent and to comfort departed souls from the land and the sea,” the database said.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Following the the plague, “residents on Cheung Chau have been organising the annual Jiao Festival to express gratitude to Pak Tai for blessing the area with peace,” the website says.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Three, traditional 12-metre high “bun mountain” installations did not appear at the festival, as usual. Instead, three shorter, 4.5-metre installations were placed in front of banners, Tai Ping Qing Jiao organising committee chair Yung Chi-ming told HKFP on Monday. He added that their contractor did not have enough staff to deliver.

2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival festival
The 2023 Cheung Chau Bun Carnival on Friday, May 26. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
2023 Cheung Chau Bun scrambling contest festival
Villagers burn offerings during the festival at midnight on Cheung Chau. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

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Kyle Lam is a Hong Kong Baptist University graduate who has worked as a photojournalist and reporter since 2013. His work has been published by HK01, the European Pressphoto Agency, Bloomberg and Ming Pao. Lam is the recipient of several prizes from the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and Human Rights Press Awards.