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    Phuket Vegetarian Festival (2nd) - Посольство Королевства Таиланд в Москве :

    Праздники и Фестивали /

    Phuket Vegetarian Festival (2nd)

    Date: 24 October 2014 - 1 November 2014
    Venue: Phuket

    Phuket's Vegetarian festival (or jia chai in local Hokkien Chinese dialect) began in 1825,when the governor of Thalang, Praya Jerm, moved the island's principal town from Ta Reua in Thalang District to Get-Hoe in Kathu District, where were tin mines and Chinese miners. Kathu was then still covered by jungle and fever was rife. It happened that a traveling opera company (called ngiu in Thai or pua-hee in Hokkien dialect) came from China to perform for the miners.

    When the whole company grew sick from an unnamed malady, they kept to a vegetarian diet to honor two of the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh. The sickness afflicting the opera troupe then disappeared. This greatly interested the people of Kathu,who asked how it was done. The answer came that ritual vegetarianism with its attendant ceremonies had been the cause, with the result that people embraced the faith enthusiastically. Thus the festival began: starting the first evening of the ninth lunar month, it continued until the ninth evening; the aim was to bring good luck to individuals as well as to the community.

    It later happened that one familiar with the festival volunteered to return to Kansai, in China, where he invited the sacred Hiao Ho-le or Hiao lan (incense smoke) and Lian Tui (name plaques), which have the status of gods, to come stay in Kathu. He also brought holy writings used in the ceremonies, returning to Phuket on the seventh night of the ninth month. The people, upon hearing of his arrival, went in procession to Bang Niao Pier to bring him and his sacred cargo back. This was the origin of the processions that figure so greatly in the festival.

    The afternoon before the festival begins, a great pole at each temple is raised, called the Go Teng pole, with which the gods are invited to descend. At midnight the pole is hung with nine lanterns, signalizing the opening of the fest. Two important gods are also invited down at midnight to preside over ceremonies; these are Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Tae.

    Aside from this, there are other ceremonies throughout the fest, notably: invocation of the gods Lam Tao, who keeps track of the living, and Pak Tao, who keeps track of the dead; processions of the gods' images; and feats of the Ma Song-like bathing in hot oil, bladed ladder climbing and fire-walking. The festival ends with merit making ceremonies at each temple (sadoh kroh) and the send-off of the gods on the last night (when fireworks are at their most impressive).

    Ma Song, or middleman, are devotees whom the gods enter during the fest. They manifest supernatural powers and perform self-tortures in order to shift evil from individuals onto themselves, and to bring the community good luck. Ma Song fall into two categories: those who, having had an intimation of impending doom, want to extend their lives; and people specially chosen by the gods for their moral qualities.

    Throughout the festival fireworks and drums are sounded, especially during ceremonies. It is held that the louder they are the better, because the noise drives away evil spirits.

    Participants in the fest keep to a strict vegetarian diet for a varying number of days, usually no less than three. This they do to make themselves strong in mind and body; they refrain from all vice, eating animal flesh, and killing animals. The festival thus promotes good hygiene, brightness and inner peace.

    Purification and Vegetarianism :

    While devoted to the Nine Emperor Gods, purification of individuals as well as of communal spaces is the principal theme of the whole belief during this period of time.

    Self-purification of the devotees is symbolized by the white attire and fasting to achieve a strict form of vegetarianism (Je or Je Chai or Chai).

    The purification of space of impure and dangerous forces, conceived generally as evil spirits, is one of the principal ritual activities of the spirit mediums.

    Fasting = Chiak Chai

    The prohibition of consuming food with strong or raw smell, such as garlic, Chinese chives, tobacco and “lak khiao” (a small vegetable similar to garlic) is to prevent the five essences of body (Fire, Water, earth, wood an metal) being harmed by the strong aromatics contain toxins. Abstinence is to test one’s power of endurance, self-discipline and penance in order to attain longevity.

    Chanting and Meditation ( Je Sian) are the sensual pleasure cleansing to cleanse psycho-physiological order as human body is controlled by nerve center.

    10 Rules of Body Cleansing to Acquire Supernatural Power during the Nine Emperor Gods or Vegetarian Festival:

    1.Abstain from killing living things.(Abstain from eating meat product. )

    2.Abstain from stealing.

    3.Abstain from telling lie.

    4.Abstain from alcoholic drinks.

    5.Abstain from adultery.

    6.Abstain from gambling.

    7.Abstain from bedecking jewelry and leather goods.

    8.Wearing white attire is preferable during the festival.

    9.Mourner, women in menstruation and pregnancy should avoid participating in any kind of rituals.

    10.Kitchen utensils and containers should be kept solely for the festival.

    The Rituals of the Vegetarian Festival

    The Invitation Ritual or the Tall Lantern Pole Raising Ritual

    The ritual takes place in the afternoon and evening of the day preceding those nine days – namely on the last day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar to invite the Jade Emperor (Yok Ong Tai Te) and the Nine Emperor Gods(Kiu Ong Tai Te).

    The demarcation and consecration of the shrine’s compound are conducted by the principal medium after the Yok Ong has descended from the heaven. In anticipation of the festival, devotees begin to wear white garments, eat vegetarian food (che) and abstinence from the 5 Buddhist Precepts a few days prior to the opening ritual in order to achieve the body purification. In religious terms, it is considered as an act of contrition or expurgation for the sins incurred by the killing and consumption of animals in the course of the past year. It is also a test of one’s power of endurance, self-discipline and penance.

    The Ritual of Food-Offering to Heavenly Warriors

    The ritual, performs in the early afternoon, pays respect to the spirits of warriors and their horses, many of the rank-and –file spirit mediums participating in this festival are possessed by these spirits, who are believed to entertain a position in the celestial hierarchy beneath the gods, but above the ghosts. Vegetarian food, tea and rice liquor are prepared for the spirit warriors and grass is for horse.

    The Chanting

    The chanting of Taoist North Star Canon (Pak Tao Keng) takes place 2 times a day after the Invitation Ritual of the Jade Emperor (Yok Ong Tai Te) to the shrines – morning and evening incantations. The prayer leader (Huat Kua) reads the names of contributors (Thark Sor) to the festival in front of the Nine Emperor Gods in every evening only.

    The Propitiation of the Seven Stars

    The ritual takes place on the fifth day of the festival to propitiate the Big Dipper or Seven Stars (Chit Chaen). The Big Dipper has 2 invisible and 7 visible stars. The mediums distribute auspicious charms (Hu) to devotees in order to repel evil spirits.


    Firecracker is widely used for the entire festival. It is believe that lighting firecrackers before the Sedan Chairs and Palanquin is to welcome the Nine Emperors Gods .

    Once the sedan chairs and Palanquin pass by worshippers lit firecrackers to bid farewell the Nine Emperors Gods.On the contrary, no firecracker is supposed to lit on top of the Ceremonial Umbrella.

    The Street Procession

    This is the most spectacular event of the Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival., which became iconic of the festival as a whole. The processions offer an opportunity for the householders and the general public along the streets to receive the blessings of the gods possessing the spirit mediums. The inhabitants set up altar in front of their houses, decorated with Chinese embroideries table apron (Tok Ui), placing on them lit candles and incense sticks , flowers, fruit, sweets and tea.

    The processions are usually preceded by a vehicle of the shrine association followed by school children carrying banner with the name of the shrine, flags and banners “with the gods’ or goddesses’ names in Chinese characters”. These are followed by several Chinese percussion bands of floats or motorcycles. Sedan chairs (Tai Pian)with the gods’ are carried in the center of the processions with position orderly in the celestial hierarchy. After by Niu Sew (ceremonial umbrella “Traditional Chinese”) in front of The carrying of the Nine Emperor Gods (Kiu Ong) incense urn is considered a great honor and it is carried by the priest’s assistant (Lor Chu) or censer-master, and tightly held under the Kiu Ong. The explosion of firecrackers over the palanquin (Tua Lian)of the Nine Emperor Gods reaches a climax

    The Street Procession

    This is the most spectacular event of the Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival., which became iconic of the festival as a whole. The processions offer an opportunity for the householders and the general public along the streets to receive the blessings of the gods possessing the spirit mediums. The inhabitants set up altar in front of their houses, decorated with Chinese embroideries table apron (Tok Ui), placing on them lit candles and incense sticks , flowers, fruit, sweets and tea.

    The Fire-Walking Ritual

    The Fire-Walking Ritual takes place on the sixth day of the festival. “Fire overcomes impurity and repels evil influence. As men purify themselves with fire, they expiate transgressions and thus overcome yin”. In fire- walking, it is believed that only those that are cleansed will be void from being seriously burns.

    The Ceremonial Bridge-Crossing Ritual (Koi Harn)

    The ritual takes place on the ninth day of the festival, just before the Farewell Ritual that sends the gods back to the heaven. The main idea of devotees crossing the bridge is believed to be cleansed from impurities and misfortunes that may fall upon them. Once crossing the bridge, a red stamp of the Nine Emperor Gods’ seal (or imperial seal) will be stamped at the back of the devotees to signify that they are purified from sins and calamities that might happen to them.

    The Farewell Ritual

    The Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival culminates in the farewell ritual for the Jade Emperor and the Nine Emperor Gods on the evening of the ninth and last day, and comes to close with sending off the Kiu Ong at midnight back to the heaven.

    The ritual is divided into 2 parts : the Jade Emperor is bade farewell at the lantern pole in the shrines’ yards by burning the paper palace for the Jade emperor; then the Nine Emperors are sent off at a body of water, mainly conduct close to the sea – Saphan Hin or river, with a huge heap of gold paper and multi-colored “imperial” paper costumes.

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