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Ghost Festival

Ghost Festival the castle
Ghost Festival the view inside the castle
The Mid-Summer Ghost Festival - the offering of sacrifices held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month is a custom dating back to thousands of years which has been passed on through many generations. According to Taoist beliefs, this festival of deliverance originated on the birthday of the Chinese Guardian of Hell who governs all matters in the underworld and decreed an amnesty out of mercy so all lost souls could be released back to the mortal world from hell on the 1st day of July To enjoy incense, candles and food offered to the spirits for a period of one month so they might be converted to "The Way." The Buddhists designate the mid-summer sacrifices as the Ghost Festival Legend has it that Moginlin, a disciple of Buddha Sakyamuni, entered the path of hungry spirits in Hell to rescue his deceased mother from suffering there. On the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, five fruits and a hundred delicacies were offered in ten directions to all the ghosts in space to relieve his mother's suffering in hell. Both of these interpretations en-compass the Chinese spirits of forbearance, charity and filial piety.

The origin of Mid-Summer Ghost Festival in Keelung can be traced back to the "Changchow and Chuanchow Clash". It was a war between the people of Changchow and Chuanchow coming from Fukien Province of Mainland China that occurred in August 1851 (1st year of Ching dynasty Emperor Hsien Feng,). Many people died violently in this brutal fight. A sacrificial ceremony was performed on the verge of further revenge and provocation. Fortunately, knowledgeable people of high esteem stopped in to mediate and the imminent clash did not take place. it was then decided that families would alternately by family name offer sacrifices to relieve the souls of the dead from suffering in the next world, regionalism was replaced by kinship, substituted for the undesirable customs of fracturing skulls.

Ghost Festival the Wang Ship burning
Ghost Festival parade through the streets
The sacrificial services have been conducted ever since for 150 years and supported by both scholars and commoners. The first Mid-Summer Ghost Festival in Keelung was held in 1856 (fifth year of the Ching dynasty Emperor Hsien Feng). The 11 family sects of Chang-liao-Chien, Wu, Liu-Tung-Tu, Cheng-Hu-Yao, Hsieh, Lin, Chiang, Jen, Ho-Lan-Han, Lai. Hsu, drew lots to alternately become the principal sponsor who officiated over the services of delivering all the souls in the Ghost Festival. In 1954, members with family names of Li, Kuo, Wang, Yang, Tseng, Huang, Ko-Tsai, Chieu-Chiu, Su, Chow-Lian, Chung-Hsia-Yeh, Pdi, Yu-Hsu-Tu, Dong-Tung, established the Association of Joint Family Names, resulting in a total of twelve family groups alternating the sponsorship. Subsequently in 1980, the Kuo and Li families left the Association. In 1985, Huang family began holding services independently. There are now a total of 15 associations.

The Mid-Summer Ghost Festival begins on the 1st day of the seventh lunar month and is marked by opening the tower gate of the "Old Venerable" Temple. On the 12th day, lamps on the Main Altar are lighted, the spectacular multi-colored illumination descends every comer of Keelung. On the 13th day, procession of dipper lanterns is held and greeted by attendants. On the 14th day, a parade is held for releasing the water lanterns. On the 15th day, water lanterns are officially released and sacrificial rites for delivering the ghosts are performed both in public and private. A ceremonial dance is also performed to welcome deity Chung Kwei to awe the ghosts and keep them in order.

Ghost Festival DANCING LION
Ghost Festival the Wang Ship
On the 1st day of eighth lunar month, the tower gate is closed. Every sacrificial ritual reflects cultural and folklore traditions. On the first day, the gates of the tower and the tombs are open to let the wandering, the hungry and the lonely ghosts in Hell return to the world of the living to seek food for one month. In dipper lanterns which represent clans with the same family name, there are actual objects of ruler, scissors, sword and mirror, with each having a specific auspicious meaning. The handing over of thuribles with family names on them signify "generational succession." The lanterns are released in the waterways to illuminate the way for the abandoned souls and lead them to dry land. The Main Altar is arranged in the form of the Chinese character "Fu" meaning " wealth , lucky ", each of the most brilliantly shone four characters of "Gold, Fowl, Sable, Stone" has its historical meaning. The ceremonial dance of welcoming Chung Kwei and the closing of tower gate on the 1st day of the eighth lunar month are for sending the ghosts back to the nether world, so they won't cause any harm in the living world. Hopefully, the readers can have a glimpse of the historical background and the folklore value of Keelung Mid-Summer Ghost Festival.

One to three days before the Sacrificial Deliverance Ceremony, bamboo posts are set up at sites such as railway stations, Ching-An Temple, Main Altar and Cultural Center. Large leafed green bamboo is often used as posts for hanging the lamps, signifying a job being complete from beginning to "a good end." Lamps and banners are hung on the posts. Raising bamboo posts serves two purposes; one is to invite all heavenly deities to supervise the proceedings of this ceremony and to enjoy merits, the other is to allure the wandering ghosts to come to share the sacri- fices offered to them. Lamps and banners that are visibly hung along main roads, railway stations and bus terminals are for promoting the event and adding to the festive atmosphere.

Ghost Festival DANCING DRAGON
Ghost Festival parade through the streets with driving car

Procession of Dipper Lamps Greeting

Procession of Dipper Lamps Greeting electronic amusing car "Dipper lamp" is commonly seen during religious services and deliverance of ghosts in temples. It is considered an auspicious object that is capable of avoiding evil spirits and bring-ing blessings lo the multitude. The procession of dipper lamp greeting is a fixed annual event held in the afternoon on the 13th of July. Usually these lamps are properly placed in each house of the clansman association. After the procession, they are offered at Qing An Temple, this activity has always been viewed as a small climax preceding the Lantern Releasing, at-tracting quite a crowd every year to savor these gorgeous and artistically designed dipper lamps made by each clansman association.

Procession of Dipper Lamps Greeting Palace of the chairman "Dipper lamp" is offered by one or jointly by several families. Dipper lamp represents the kinship among members with the same family names, signifying a common destiny. A dip-The uppermost level is crowded with auspicious objects such as ruler, scissors, scale, sword and mirror; a "ruler" can tell length, "scissors" can decide "any size", "scale" can "evaluate weight (or importance), "sword", a mighty giant weapon, can ward off veil omen. As for a round mirror hanging in front of flame, it emits peaceful and harmonious light, signifying the limitless light of life. Once the dipper lamp is lighted, it will not be extinguished so to absorb its auspices of luminous essence of life everlasting.


The Parade Releasing Water Lanterns

The Parade Releasing Water Lanterns "The Parade of Releasing Water lanterns on the evening of the 14th day of the seventh lunar month is the climax for crowd participation and the focal point of the whole sacrificial rites.

Water Lantern Parade is the combination of water lantern exhibition,formation display and the marching of representatives from each clansman association. The whole parade is conducted in the manner of both game and contest. Each Family presented their best rows of colorful water lanterns and the luxuriantly decorated float.

The Parade Releasing Water Lanterns with DANCING LION On the art pavilion (platform) and in formations. under the dazzling lighting, legends of each Family are performed. Enthusiastic crowds thronging about both sides of the parade would comment and judge. There is always the tradition of "ever with fewer number of people, the fervor (spirit) prevails.


Releasing water lanterns

Releasing water lanterns "The purpose of releasing water lanterns is to illuminate the waterways for the lonely souls on the water and bring them to land, so the ghosts on both land and water tan co-exist in peace.

After the lantern heads are released, the paper house and paper money in it are burned and flowed to the sea. It is a long held belief that the farther the lantern head floats, the more prosperous the Family is to become. Therefore, lantern heads are often released during ebbing onto the expansive sea, hoping they will sail faraway to invite the good brothers on the water.


The Chu-Pu Temple

The Chu-Pu Temple Sacrificial rites for delivering the ghost on lunar July 15th were performed mainly at the Main Altar situated in Chong-cheng Park. The Main Altar in early days (1851), due to "Changchow and Chuanchow Clash", was temporarily set up on Hsin-tien St or Tsou-wai-tien St. In 1929, a permanent Altar was built in Kou-sha Park. Due to traffic congestion during the rites, it was later transferred to the present location in Chong-cheng Park. The Main Altar started construction in 1970 and was finished in 1974. From the Altar situating on mountain top, a panoramic view of the harbor and the City is in sight. When all lamps are lighted, faraway view of glittering lights of the Altar can be seen from different parts of the City, bringing nostalgic atmosphere.


The Deliverance & Offering Ritual

The Deliverance & Offering Ritual The focus of Mid-Summer Ghost Festival is on deliverance and offprint. Out of fear among folk community, people would worship and make offers with the belief that such practice can prevent the rootless malicious ghosts from haunting the mortals and doing mischievous deeds. Besides The Main Altar, the sites for performing deliverance and offering rituals are the Old Venerable Temple and Qing An Temple. In the proceedings, a public notice is first posted in a serious manner. After the posting, the priest would sign and seal the notice with a writing brush in red ink; to let the public realize the content of the ritual and to proclaim to the lonely ghosts summoning them lo come learn the Buddha's teachings and repent. The edict to the nether world arc written on yellow paper. The deliverance & offering rituals practiced by Buddhism concentrate on chanting scriptures and the imprints of Buddha's hands implies delivering the ghosts to the Paradise. The offerings used in the rituals helve certain criteria. There s of principles: whole and partial, raw and cooked. depicts highest respect t and grandest action while the offering is sectioned, the lower ranked the deity. The raw depicts a cool relationship, while the "cooked" depicts acquaintance, familiarity.


Closing Kain-man

Closing Kain-man temple "Kain" means tower or basement in Buddhism, referring to the burial ground for the remains of the righteous volunteers. The extended application of "god tower" depicts the ascension of those "Old Venerable" to the rank of godhood.

Closing Kain-man Hungry Ghost Festival Closing the tower gate is the closing ritual of the Mid-summer Ghost Festival. The lonely and hungry ghosts, already enjoyed the offering for a whole month in the world of the living, should go back to the nether world, closing the tower gate to prevent them from causing harms in this world. The ritual of closing the gate is preformed by a Taoist priest dressed in bluish green robe. He would hold the Seven Star sword and after cleaning the spirits in the five directions of spare, an army of generals was summoned to expel the evil spirits. His movements were swift and agile; he it waving the double axes or fluttering with both hands. In the end, he would hold the long sword to chase away the lingering ghosts and seal the gate using "ken" of the Eight Diagrams. At this time, the priest would appear as the magnificent and powerful Thunder God.