Certainly one of the more controversial events on the cultural calendar in Taiwan is Sanxia’s God Pig festival. Held on the sixth day of the lunar new year at the Zushi (Tsuhsih) temple, this practice originated in the Hakka community of Taiwan. Today most of the temples in Taiwan that still mark the festival use a symbolic representation of a pig but in Sanxia live pigs are still used despite a petition condemning the practice signed by prominent members of the Hakka community. Animal rights group state that the pigs are often force fed sand and metal to increase their weight, before being sacrificed and paraded through the streets. Every year, large crowds attend but whether they support the practice or not it’s hard to say. Many go because they’re curious, many go to the temple for prayers and pay no attention to the pigs and others still take pride in the practice. In 2013 the heaviest pig weighed in at around 960kg, which was a little lighter than last year.
While the pigs are displayed in the temple courtyard, inside masses of people offer prayers for the new year amid clouds of incense smoke and tables full of fruit and flower offerings. The intricately decorated temple is not large and worshippers have to jostle for position when making their prayers.