百足真人——蜈蚣陣

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1993 / 7月

文‧蔡文婷 圖‧黃麗梨


在台灣民間每逢神明誕辰,信徒就以妝扮富麗的「藝閣」和包羅萬象的「陣頭」表演,喜洋洋地遶境遊行,敬謝神恩。

藝閣和陣頭合稱藝陣。傳統的藝陣不僅有深厚的宗教意義,也有值得欣賞的藝術風貌;創新的陣頭大多有趣,也反映部分時代現況。在新、舊藝陣都不斷蛻變下,本刊開闢「台灣藝陣系列」為其留下紀錄。

今年大學聯考錄取率,預計將高達百分之五十;然而今年台南學甲鎮集和宮的蜈蚣陣「神童」錄取率,卻只有百分之五。它為什麼這麼熱門?


「凡年七至十歲,體重四十公斤以內的孩童,有意裝(扮)蜈蚣陣神童者請報名。」

在學甲後社的集和宮貼出告示紅紙後,報名人數高達六百九十五人,其中將只有卅六人可以雀屏中選。

「我十一個孫都報名,才抽到一個,這比考狀元還難哦!」一位阿公說。旁邊湊熱鬧的阿媽更誇張,她說:「我報廿多個名,就是一定要給他得一個,結果還是一個也沒抽到!」

「阿媽這麼好命,孫子廿多個啊?」經旁人一問,阿媽這才不好意思地解釋:「沒啦,孫只三個,其他的名都是厝邊頭尾借來的。」

作皇帝大家有機會

農曆三月初十,學甲上白礁祭典前一天,轄內的後社集和宮前一陣騷動。自六百九十五人中幸運中籤的卅六個孩子站在場中央,他們的爸爸、媽媽、阿公、阿媽圍擠在四周,聽候角色分配。

今年筊杯擲出的戲碼是「水滸傳」,化妝師吳春嬉按照孩子的臉型及個性分配角色,「像這較活潑的適合裝小丑;女孩子嬌俏的扮武旦,就作孫二娘;像這較粗壯的,大家都知道做黑旋風李逵最適合了。」

一般角色由化妝師全權決定,然而將坐陣蜈蚣尾的皇帝人選,則由化妝師粗挑三個,再一起入廟內擲筊杯由神明來選定。這時三家大人無不點香禱唸,希望能有此福份中選。究竟扮蜈蚣有什麼好處?為什麼家長們要如此擠破頭呢?

蜈蚣陣是一種具有強烈宗教性格的藝陣,多出現在王爺信仰盛行的台南縣沿海鄉鎮。所謂蜈蚣,是由一節節木板串聯而成,以模仿蜈蚣形貌,上面再安置座椅給化了妝的孩子乘坐遊行。民間傳說蜈蚣是為王爺掃除不潔的開路先鋒,因此總是出現在長長遶境隊伍的最前頭。「若無蜈蚣公走前頭,大道公(保生大帝)也不能行;而且它所到之處鞭炮總是放得最響」,集和宮主任委員劉正上強調。

不只為神淨路,相信蜈蚣陣出巡更可以替人們驅邪除煞,才是家長趨之若鶩的主要原因。

上坐下跪皆平安

清晨五點,家長領著孩子在微透藍的曙色中走向集和宮。「你這老鳥現在才來,我可是公布三點就三點來。」「沒啦,我鬧鐘轉二顆,誰知道一顆也沒響,有夠氣死人」,家長們手提著裝有蛋、瘦肉和金紙等牲禮的謝籃興奮地打招呼。

穿著內外全新衣服象徵潔淨的孩子,睡眼惺忪地由化妝師在他們臉上畫出扮演的角色,諸神的特色似乎也就化到孩子的身上。身體羸弱的孩子尤其希望畫個大花臉,據說更可以就此百病不侵。「孩子多病不好養育的、睡覺會夜尿的,裝過蜈蚣就胖胖大、好養育了。我的兒子以前裝過,今天裝的是我孫子」,老爺爺陳芳進說明。

除了相信坐在蜈蚣陣上的孩子可以得到健康、平安和智慧;民間也認為讓蜈蚣自身上跨過,可以去除厄運、得保平安。

因此當蜈蚣隨著鑼鼓炮聲接近村莊時,人們便匐匍地上跪成一長排,讓一切「壞東西」隨蜈蚣陣走過而消失。不能親自返鄉的人,為了一樣能達到效果,則由家人將其衣服放在地上。

就這樣走過鹽田、魚塭,行過稻田,一個村莊遶過一個村莊,原本屬於人人懼怕的五毒物,以毒攻毒地帶給地方健康平安。而出陣的高潮則在蜈蚣進入廟埕「圈廟」時,將廟埕上的民眾圈繞起來;如果蜈蚣夠長,則是連廟和人通通圈圍起來。

百足扛工

從清晨三點集合、七點出發,在正午陽光下,為大道公開路的蜈蚣來到海邊白礁亭休息。孩子們「坐」了一個上午,累了;跟在一旁遞水、撐傘的父母,「走」了一個上午也累了,紛紛鋪起草席或張開躺椅小睡片刻。然而,最累的則是已經在吃第三個便當的扛工們。

目前現存七陣的蜈蚣陣,大小採天罡地煞之數,分為卅六、七十二、一○八人三種。大部分都改成木板底下裝設輪架,以求省事省力;唯獨集和宮的蜈蚣陣仍沿襲舊俗,全憑人力扛動。

劉正上說:「用人扛走,百餘隻腳在走,才像蜈蚣在爬,這是傳統,不應該放棄。但是現在人工實在很難找,也是考慮過改成輪子,然而不行啊——向神請示結果就是不准。」

放眼望去,三三五五樹下廟邊席地休息的,都是五、六十歲的做工人。「你看現在田中哪有四十歲以下的?現在年輕人攏嘛是紙肩頭,就算給他一天四千元他也不願來」,扛工們看不慣地說著。事實上扣去介紹人的佣金,兩班替換的扛工,一個人一天下來不過一千五百元工資。「粗工人賺的錢就是較別人辛苦,假如運氣壞,扛到六十公斤重的『大漢』小孩,那是錢賺得沒有汗滴得多哪!」

天下父母心

所有藝陣中,動員人數最多的莫過於蜈蚣陣了。以集和宮卅六人蜈蚣陣為例,孩子加一個隨行父母是七十二人,扛工一百五十四人,再加上拿香、拿旗、放鞭炮的工作人員六十個,就二百八十多人。要是全尾蜈蚣再乘三倍,可就八百多人浩浩蕩蕩了。

今年不是三年一次的大遶境,遊行在晚上七點不到就已回到集和宮。「這一天的不算太累,去年我兒子坐了三天還吵著要坐,大人可累慘了!他爸爸還為此請了三天假」,隨行的媽媽表示。

三天的遶境,不只時間,在金錢上也要三倍付出。一般的藝陣,表演的人往往有錢可拿,然而由孩子坐陣的藝閣和蜈蚣陣,卻反而是上陣的孩子要添油香錢。這次集和宮一個孩子裝一天蜈蚣要分攤一萬三千元開支,三天就近四萬,一家要兩個孩子參加則要八萬了。要是擲杯當皇帝的,香油錢更不在六位數以下呢!「天下父母心,總是為了兒女好。也有一些是阿公疼阿孫,拿自己的私房錢來參加。古早環境差,只裝兒子不裝女兒,現在是外孫女也報名」,疼孫子的陳芳進表示。

看這些孩子神氣地坐在上頭,辛苦的是底下噓寒問暖的父母們。花錢、花時間,還要四處借來戶口名簿增加命中率。看來是這般天下父母心,便有這般的蜈蚣陣總是被殷殷期待。

〔圖片說明〕

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頭尾一○八人的全尾蜈蚣出陣好不壯觀!(卜華志攝)

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阿公疼阿孫,拿私房錢給他扮蜈蚣神童;一旁來幫忙的兒子也曾是百中選一的幸運兒。

P.112

扮蜈蚣是件大事,清晨三、四點就得開始化妝。雖然睡眼惺忪,對孩子卻是一次新鮮難忘的經驗。(卜華志攝)

P.113

中午休息時間,跟著走了一天的母親推開躺椅,為孩子一邊擦汗一邊扇風。唉,天下父母心。

P.114

長長的蜈蚣將在廟埕上的人們圍起來,這「圈廟」一樣具有除煞招福的功能,是蜈蚣出陣的高潮。

P.115

目前全台灣僅剩學甲後社集和宮的蜈蚣陣以人力扛動。一接近市街,人們紛紛匍匐跪地,讓蜈蚣跨過身上,以保平安。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Hundred-Footed Humanity - The Centipede Procession

Ventine Tsai /photos courtesy of Huang Li-li /tr. by Robert Taylor

This year, the acceptance rate in the national university entrance exams is expected to reach 50 percent. But the acceptance rate for youngsters to play "spirit children" in this year's Centipede Procession at the Chihe Kung temple near Hsuehchia in Tainan County was only five percent. What's its attraction?


In Taiwan folk customs, each time the birthday of a deity comes around, the faithful hold a festive parade around the temple area, with colorfully made-up folk artists and kaleidoscopic performance troupes, to express gratitude for divine beneficence.

These artists and performers are known collectively as yi-chen, which simply means "arts and troupes." Traditional yi-chen have deep religious significance, as well as admirable artistic skills. Modern troupes are mainly in it for the fun or interest, and reflect a slice of contemporary life. With traditional and modern yi-chen constantly evolving, Sinorama has undertaken a continuing series on Taiwan's arts and performance companies to leave a permanent record of where they are today.

"All boys and girls aged six to nine and weighing under 40 kg who wish to play spirit children in the Centipede Procession, please apply."

After this notice, written on red paper, appeared at the Chihe Kung temple at Houshe near Hsuehchia, there were as many as 695 applications, but of these only 36 would be chosen.

"My 11 grandchildren all put their names down, but only one was picked; it's harder than coming first in the Imperial Examinations!" says one old man. Joining in the fun, an old lady next to him exaggerates even more wildly: "I put in over 20 names, to make sure of one getting in, but not even one of them came up!"

When a bystander asks: "Grandma, are you really so lucky as to have more than twenty grandchildren?" the old lady can only explain in embarrassment" "No, I've only got three, I used neighbors' names for the rest."

Everyone has a chance to be Emperor:

On the tenth day of the third lunar month, the day before the Paichiao Festival in Hsuehchia, a boisterous crowd gathers in front of the Chihe Kung temple in the nearby village of Houshe. The 36 children lucky enough to have had their names drawn from among the 695 applicants stand in the center of the temple forecourt, with their mums, dads, grandmas and grandpas in a dense crowd around them, waiting for the roles to be allocated.

This year's theatrical theme, chosen by casting crescent blocks, is "The Water Margin." (Crescent blocks or chiaopei are pairs of wooden crescents, flat on one side, used to divine the will of the deities. The blocks are thrown onto the ground while making a request; if they fall with one flat side up and one down, this indicates the god's approval.) Wu Chun-hsi, the make-up artist, allots roles according to the children's features and character" "A lively lad like this can be a clown; a graceful pretty girl can play a female warrior such as Sun Erh-niang; and anyone can see that a stocky young chap like this one here is just right for Li Kuei, the 'Black Whirlwind."

Most of the roles are cast by the make-up man on his own authority, but the final choice of the Emperor who will ride at the rear of centipede is left to the temple gods. Three candidates selected by the make-up man are led inside the temple together, and the choice is made by throwing down crescent blocks. At this moment the grown-ups from the three families are all burning incense and praying fervently, each hoping they will have the good fortune to be chosen. But what's so great about taking part in the centipede procession? Why do so many parents join the crush?

The centipede procession is an artistic performance with a strongly religious character, of a type often seen in the coastal areas of Tainan County where belief in wangye (heroic figures venerated as deities) is widespread.

The "centipede" comprises segment after segment made from wooden boards, joined together to mimic the shape of a centipede, and with seats mounted on top for children in theatrical costume to sit as the procession advances. In folk legends, the centipede acts as vanguard for the wangye, clearing a path and driving out all things impure, and so it can always be found at the very front of the long procession as it winds its way all around the locality. "Without the Lord Centipede at the front, the Great Lord of the Tao (Ta Tao Kung, another name for Pao Sheng Ta Ti, the Great Emperor Protector of Life) could not come out; and wherever the centipede goes is where the firecrackers are loudest," stresses Liu Cheng-shang, chairman of Chihe Kung's temple management committee.

But the main reason why so many parents flock to take part is not just because the centipede drives corruption from the path of the deity, but because they believe that the centipede procession wards off evil from the people along its path.

Peace and safety for those above and those below:

At five the next morning, under a dawn sky tinged with blue, parents lead their children towards Chihe Kung. "What time do you call this, you old devil, why weren't you here at three like I announced?" "I couldn't help it, I set two alarm clocks, but not one of the darned things went off!" Their arms laden with "thanksgiving baskets" filled with sacrificial offerings such as eggs, lean meat and spirit money, the grown-ups exchange excited greetings.

Dressed from head to foot in new clothes to symbolize purity, the children wait bleary-eyed for the make-up man to paint their faces according to the roles they will enact. As he does so, it is as if the attributes of the various spirits are transferred to the children themselves. Weak and thin children especially hope to be painted with the colorful mask of one of the more powerful male characters, for it is said that this can make them immune to all disease.

As old Mr. Chen Fang-chin explains, "Sickly children who won't put on weight, or who wet their beds, will grow fat and healthy once they've acted in the centipede. My son was in it when he was a boy, and today my grandson's in it." As well as believing that the children who ride on the centipede can become healthy, intelligent and safe from harm, people also think that if the centipede steps over a person's body, it will drive away ill fortune and keep evil at bay. This is why when the centipede procession approaches a village, heralded by the din of gongs, drums and firecrackers, people prostrate themselves on the ground and kneel in a long line, to let everything bad be driven out by the centipede as it passes over them. Those who cannot return home in person have their families lay their clothes on the ground for the same effect.

In this way, passing between salt pans, fish ponds and rice paddies, the procession snakes its way from one village to the next. The centipede, usually feared by all as one of the "five poisonous creatures," today uses its poison to drive out other poisons, bringing health and security to the community. The high point of the procession is when the centipede enters a temple forecourt to "circle the temple." It forms a ring around all the people in the forecourt, or if it is long enough, may even encircle the whole temple complete with all the people.

The centipede's hundred feet--the bearers:

Having begun to gather at three in the morning and set off at seven, it is under the blazing midday sun that the centipede, clearing the way for the Great Lord of the Tao, arrives at Paichiao Ting temple to rest by the sea. The children have been "riding" all morning, and are tired; their parents, who have been "walking" all morning alongside the centipede, passing up water and holding umbrellas to shade their children from the sun, are tired too; they all unroll straw mats or unfold deckchairs to take a quick nap. But the ones who have worked the hardest of all, and are already tucking into their third lunch packs, are the bearers.

The seven centipede processions which still survive come in three sizes, all based on astrological numbers: they carry 36,72 or 108 people. Most have gone over to supporting the boards on wheeled frames to save effort; only the Chihe Kung centipede continues in the old way, relying on human muscle power alone to carry it along.

Liu Cheng-shang says: "It's only when you have people carrying it, with a hundred or so feet marching along, that it really looks like a centipede crawling. It's a tradition, we shouldn't give it up. But it really is difficult nowadays to find people to do this work, so we did think about changing to using wheels. But we couldn't--we asked the spirits, and they said no."

Look closely, and you'll find that the bearers sleeping in threes and fours on the ground under the trees and in the shade of the temple walls are all laborers in their 50's and 60's. "Do you see anyone under 40 working the fields nowadays? Young people today have all got soft shoulders, they wouldn't do this job even for NT$4000 a day," the bearers say scornfully. In fact, once you take off the agent's commission, the bearers, who work in two shifts, don't come out with more than NT$1500 each for the day. "We laborers earn our money the hard way; if your luck's out and you have to shoulder some hefty kid weighing 60 kilos, you'll earn less in money than you spend in sweat!"

Parents anywhere just want the best:

Of all the types of performing procession, the ones which involve the most people are the centipedes. To take Chihe Kung temple's 36-person centipede as an example: the children, along with one accompanying parent each, make 72 people, and with 154 bearers, plus another 60 workers to carry the incense and flags and set off the firecrackers, it all adds up to over 280 people. And for a centipede three times this size, the whole procession will form an army more than 800 strong.

Once every three years, the centipede makes a thorough tour of the whole area. But this is not such a year, and by seven in the evening the column has already found its way back to Chihe Kung. "This time it's just one day, so it hasn't been too tiring. Last year my son rode for three days and still wanted to ride; we grown-ups were worn out! His dad took three days off work just for that," says a mother who has been walking with the procession.

A three-day tour not only takes time; it also costs three times as much money. In most processions, there is usually some payment for the performers, but in those processions where children ride in floats or on a centipede, the children have to make a contribution to the temple. This year in the Chihe Kung procession, each child acting a part on the centipede had to stump up NT$13,000; for a three day event it would have been close to NT$40,000, and a family with two children taking part would have had NT$80,000 to find. The one chosen to be Emperor by casting crescent blocks doesn't get away with less than a six-figure sum! "Parents anywhere just want the best for their children. Some grandfathers will even break into their own secret nest egg to pay for their favorite grandchild to take part. In the old days, people were poor, and would only pay for their sons to take part, not their daughters; nowadays people even put their daughters' daughters' names down," says Chen Fang-chin, himself a doting grandparent.

Seeing these children perched proudly up on high, it strikes one that the most arduous burden falls on their parents, looking after their kids' wellbeing from down below. They spend time and money, and even have to go from door to door borrowing residence booklets in order to improve their children's chances of being chosen. Clearly it's this kind of parental love, the same the world over, which ensures that this centipede procession is so eagerly awaited every year.

[Picture Caption]

p.110

What a grand sight! The centipede sets out on its journey, carrying 108 people from head to tail (photo by Pu Hua-chih).

p.112

This loving grandfather has used his own private savings to pay for his grandson to act a part on the centipede; the boy's father, who has come along to help, once also had the luck to be chosen, a one-in-a-hundred chance.

p.112

Playing a part on the centipede is a big event for these children, who have to start being made up as early as three or four in the morning. Though their eyes are heavy with sleep, it's an unforgettable new experience (photo by Pu Hua-chih).

p.113

As the procession rests at lunch-time, mothers who have followed alongside all morning unfold chairs and fan their children while wiping the sweat from their brows. Mother love is the same the world over!

p.114

The long centipede surrounds all the people gathered on the temple forecourt. "Circling the temple" to drive out evil and attract good fortune is the high point of the procession.

p.115

The centipede from Chihe Kung temple at Houshe near Hsuehchia is now the only one in Taiwan which still relies wholly on human muscle power to carry it along. When it draws near to a town or village, the people all rush to kneel on the ground and let the centipede step over them, to keep them safe from harm.

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