Received: 3rd September 2012 Distance: 9423 km (5,855 miles) Travel time: 10 days.
Thank you, Yen from Taiwan!
Yen writes that this card shows one of the faces from “Eight infernal generals’, a folk tradition in Taiwan. They have many religious ceremonies and this is one of them. They paint on the face of some people, and dance, to help protect their safety.
I’ve found an English website about this tradition. This is the first part.
In Taiwan's traditional society, major religious pilgrimages usually center on religious figures called Infernal Generals who walk in choreographed groups called arrays. Many people who encounter these Infernal Generals on the street are wary of them because of their elaborate costumes and gaudily painted faces, which is a pity: in doing so they miss an opportunity to admire the folk artistry behind the performances. In fact, these Infernal Generals not only symbolize the religious beliefs of the people, they also reveal the cultural and historical background of their ancestors.
There are many tales regarding the origin of the Infernal Generals. Some scholars believe that they have close ties to the "Five Deities of Plague Control". As residents of Fujian tell it, the Infernal Generals are the bodyguards or lieutenant generals for the Five Deities of Plague Control who sweep away plagues troubling local residents. The five deities were once students before they were designated deities by the Jade Emperor - the ultimate God figure in Chinese culture. One night these students observed that the devil of plague was trying to poison the water in a well so that local residents who drank it would be poisoned.
They sacrificed their own lives by jumping into the well to warn local residents that the water was poisoned. The Jade Emperor acknowledged their sacrifices and kindness in helping the people, by designating them the Five Deities of Plague Control. Since that time one of the most controversial of all folk tales has been the story that the Infernal Generals were sent by the Jade Emperor to assist the Five Deities of Plague Control in getting rid of plagues among the civilian population.