The Chinese Ghost Festival in 2015 is on the August 28th. Do you know how Taiwanese celebrate this festival?
Fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month
The seventh month on the lunar calendar is the Chinese Ghost Month. Traditionally, it starts from dawn on the first day, when the gates of the netherworld open, and A ends on the 29th day of the month, when the gates close. People holt rituals to petition for salvation from disasters and misfortune during the celebration, which reaches a peak on the 15th day.
Jhongyuan General Salvation Ceremonies
In folk tradition, on the day of Jhongyuan Festival every household has to prepare meat, fruits, fresh flowers, and other sacrificial items; they then offer these to the hungry ghosts at a temple, or on a temporary altar table set up in front of their homes. They also ask monks to say prayers for their deceased loved ones as well as those lost souls who have no living descendants left on earth. This is known as Jhongyuan Pudu, or General Salvation.
The ceremonies take place in temple and on streets. On the afternoon of the Pudu, local residents prepare offerings and carry them to the main altar at a temple to join in the ceremonies there. For the street festivities, local residents prepare chicken, duck, and fish for offerings in front of their homes in a ceremony known as doorway worship.
Launching of the Water Lanterns
The launching of water lanterns is a longstanding custom. Its most important purpose is to help light the way for the lost souls in the water, call the souls to come on land to enjoy the offerings, and pray for the early reincarnation of these souls. It is also said that the farther a lanterns floats, the better the fortune that the clan it represents will enjoy in the coming year.
Grappling with the Ghosts
Starting in the Qing dynasty, there has been a custom of people seizing sacrificial goods after the Ghost Festival is over. Some say this is to scare away lingering spirits, and is known as “Qianggu” (搶孤, ghost grappling). The Qianggu competition held in Toucheng (頭城) is Taiwan’s largest and one of Yilan’s important traditional events during the seventh lunar month. The tower consists of pillars made of China fir, 11 meters tall and 8 meters wide, with 7 or 8 meter bamboo trestlework on top. Squid, rice dumplings, rice noodles, meat, fish, and other foods are tied to the trestlework. Team members must climb on top of each other to reach the top of the trestlework and pillars, which are covered in oil. Reaching the top, they cut down the food and throw it to the frame below, where it is taken by spectators. Whoever claims the wind banner at the top is declared the winner. There are a variety of other events, including the water lantern old street tour, releasing water lanterns into Zhu’an (竹安) River a day before the ghost gates close, and Beiguan Battle(北管鬥陣). There is a period of one month between the first day when the ghost gates open and the last day when Qianggu is held. In addition to remembering the ancestors and their pioneering efforts, the month includes a variety of religious traditional and folk culture events.