Toucheng Cianggu Grappling with the Ghosts
Many ancestors who came to Lanyang Plats for exploitation lost their lives for various reasons, such as warfare, natural disaster, and disease. Cianggu is an activity for paying our respect for our ancestors. “Cianggu” has been passed down for 200 years in Toucheng Township, Yilan County. It is an activity with multiple meanings and symbols. It is also a very exciting folk activity. Five people form a team and cooperate to climb up a high canopy covered by layers of cattle fat. They have to watch their steps, like the hardships our ancestors suffered during exploration. It is not only a traditional custom, but also a splendid performance. People express their respect for the gods and ghosts in the world. After the Cianggu activity is finished, all the sacrifices are distributed to poor people.
The Mid-Summer Ghost Festival – the offering of sacrifices held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month is a custom dating back thousands of years and 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 encompass the Chinese spirits of forebearance, charity and filial piety.
Keelung Ghost Festival
The origin of the 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 stepped 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 under world. Regionalism was replaced by kinship, substituted for the undesirable customs of fracturing skulls.
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.
National Yimin Festival
Zhongyuan rituals conducted at the Yimin temple in Fangliao, Xinpu. Hsinchu county on the 20th day of the lunar 7th month every year.
It reflects an ancient Chinese custom of presenting offerings for lonely spirits; broadly, the festival is called Zhongyuan festival, or Ghost Festival. The Ghost Festival climaxes on the 15th day of the lunar 7th month, while the ritual of Xinpu Yimin festival is held on the 20th day of the 7th month. The reason for these dates is unknown.
Yimin festival refers to the rituals for “yimin, or fighters for righteousness.” Yimin festival refers broadly to a two month series of rituals, and narrowly to several specific events, including competition of sacrificial pigs and sheep on the 20th day. The Ghost Festival ritual at Yimin Temple is organized and rotated by fifteen large villages in Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties, starting with the welcome Yiminye in two months.
The rite to present food as offerings is a key feature in the belief in the fighters for righteousness. In the second month, rituals are conducted at Yimin Temple for three days, starting from the eighteenth day of the lunar seventh month. The rituals include reciting scriptures, Buddha image consecration by Dashiye ( King of Ghost made of bamboo sticks and paper), erecting straight and solid bamboo sticks to invite deities and spirits from the underworld to receive offerings, releasing water lanterns, and competing sacrificial pigs, the peak of the ritual. In traditional society, these rites were conducted for their symbolic meaning; however, now they have been elaborated and dramatized. The temples have spiced up tradition with contemporary attractions to make the Xinpu Yimin Festival the most popular ritual for Hakka identity in Hsinchu and other Hakka regions.
Taiwan Balloon Festival
In order to make the Taiwan Balloon Festival shine ever brighter and attract more foreign and domestic tourists, the Taitung County Government custom-made two hot air balloons from Spain and trained 5 USA/Taiwan certified balloon pilots in 2012. All these were pioneering in Taiwan Ballooning history. During the 2012 Taiwan Balloon Festival, the event had attracted more than 880,000 visitors from Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. The world record setting longest hot air balloon Festival, it surely had become Taiwan’s most popular summer tourism activity in 2012. In 2013 the county affiliated balloon fleet will be expanded to 8 US/Taiwan certified commercial pilots with 5 balloons, including one specially-shaped balloon. It underlines the resolution of Governor Justin Huang and Tourism Bureau Chief Chen to further promote Taitung County as the Holy Land of ballooning in Taiwan.
Big, beautiful, colorful hot air balloons dreamily float through the air as tourists hasten to catch a glimpse of their splendor or ride them through the skies, taking in the beauty of the valley below. The hot air balloon trend has promoted local tourism, and is an attractive, rising new activitiy of the 21st century. The 2011 Taiwan International Balloon Festival was a new opportunity for aerial activities, and it 2012 it challenged the world record in terms of length of time and scale of event. The event was a success, proving the tourist charm and economic profitability of the balloons, and enhancing Taiwan’s diverse tourism environment. Taiwan International Balloon Festival includes flying shows, mooring activities, balloon rides, a night glow music concert, balloon wedding celebrations, and a summer camp, providing visitors with something to take home as well as great memories. Experience the feeling of flight as well as a feast for the senses.
There are of course many other travel themes you can use when choosing, and please visit http://timefortaiwan.tw/cal for more information