The 2012 Creative Song-Jiang Jhen Battle Array Contest is going on now (March 3,4 and 10) at the Zi Zhu Si (Black Bamboo Monastery) in Neimen, Kaohsiung, Taiwan — 2012高雄內門宋江陣在紫竹寺
2012 Creative Song-Jiang Jhen Battle Array Contest
Origins of the Song Jiang Battle Array
In the lawless days of Qing Dynasty Taiwan villages and clans formed small militia groups to guard themselves from bandit groups and robbers. The self-trained groups were naturally made up of from local farmers wielding farming implements-cum-weapons. Enter the Japanese Era and these groups were no longer needed so much for law and order and rather the troupes were often routed to rebel against the sometimes stifling and exploitative colonial rule. Finally, the groups became religious-based performance groups.
The ‘Song Jiang’ in Song Jiang Battle Array comes from the famous character Song jiang (宋江) and his 36 outlaws in the classic ‘The Water Margin (水滸傳).’
Song Jiang Battle Array Contests are popular with both young and old.
Many of the weapons held by Song Jiang members are traditional farming tools, like the wooden ‘ba’ (耙, 月牙鏟 because it is shaped like a crescent moon or harrow) usually painted auspicious red.
A traditional temple pilgrimage (進
Most Song Jiang troupes pray to Tian Fu Yuan Shuai (田府元帥), Tian Du Yuan Shuai (田都元帥 patron god of actors and musicians) or Lord Song Jiang (宋江爺). These are all most likely the same god with different names. Here the troupe raises their weapons in a ceremonial salute to Lord Song Jiang.
Soong Jiang troupes range from ten to 107 members that perform martial arts at festivals, parades or competitions.
Presently the zhentou are undergoing yet another transformation. With the modernization of Taiwanese society spectators are looking for a more entertaining form of this tradition and it comes in the form of the Creative Song-Jiang Jhen Battle Array College Cup in Neimen. Judging by the numbers of people in attendance, it is well received.
Song Jiang battle arrays are still of a very martial nature.
Rattan shields (藤牌), tridents (三叉), falchions (躂刀), long wooden stakes (齊眉棍), and harrow all pictured here are common Song Jiang jhen weapons.
Performer with a large Guan Gong Sword (大關刀) with bamboo forest backdrop.