As with most of the possible troupes that make up a Taiwanese ceremony, Be Bei-A is only present in a fraction of ceremonies, in his case perhaps one in ten. However, when he does appear, he is always at the front of the groups, as befitting his role. There are two main stories as to his origin, the first is that he comes from Qing dynasty China, a time of danger when robbery was rife. Be Bei-A would come to warn people before the thieves arrived, hitting his gong as a signal for people to hide their possessions. In this role he had no time to rest, and so carried all he needed with him - umbrella for the rain, woollen clothes for the cold, pork and vegetables for sustenance, and a hat for the sun. On his feet he had only one straw shoe, because when the other fell off, he was in such a hurry that he had no time to pick it up. The second story is that he was a spy who did reconnaissance in the army, always preceding the others. He can be seen wearing the red hat of a common soldier in the Qing dynasty.
The clothes and items that Be Bei-A wears and carries are all rich with meaning and symbolism, some of which I will detail here. He is often seen carrying a pig leg and long vegetable, representing contentment and long life. His long moustache, said to be shaped like a swallow's tail, represents honesty, while his goat skin jacket represents suffering, and how it must be borne in order to ultimately prevail. His trousers are uneven representing the unpredictability of life - life cannot always be good. He also has 3 scabs on his leg symbolising misdeeds, which he tries to cover with plasters. This signifies that you should always do the right thing, as the truth about what you have done will become known in time. The three scabs represent the sky, the earth, and the self, all of which will know if you do wrong. Be Bei-A is not associated solely with a particular god, but is often seen at celebrations for Mazu, and one story tells of him praying to her to protect and bless his family, his joy at serving her distracting him and causing him to button his shirt wrongly.