Home Taiwan A Fascinating Parade Marking the 2019 Keelung Ghost Festival

A Fascinating Parade Marking the 2019 Keelung Ghost Festival

Every year when the seventh lunar month comes, the residents of Keelung City, a tiny port city in northern Taiwan, are always busy observing the Keelung Ghost Festival, also known as Keelung Mid-Summer Ghost Festival or Keelung Zhongyuan Festival (雞寵中元祭).

The plaza across from Keelung Cultural Center is decorated with art installations to observe the 2019 Keelung Ghost Festival. (Image: Billy Shyu / Vision Times)
The plaza across from Keelung Cultural Center is decorated with art installations to observe the 2019 Keelung Ghost Festival. (Image: Billy Shyu / Vision Times)

Designated as one of the 12 major festivals by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, and the first-ever registered intangible cultural heritage of Taiwan, the Keelung Ghost Festival has been observed annually since 1856.

Please watch the following video of a grand parade marking the 2019 Keelung Ghost Festival:

This fascinating festival is to commemorate the bitter clashes between rival clans in Keelung that led to around 100 deaths in 1851. It also marks the ethnic harmony and sympathy for those suffering hard times.

One of colorful floats from the hosting Hsu Family Association in Keelung City. (Image: Niou Chi-Ping / Vision Times)
One of the colorful floats from the hosting Hsu Family Association in Keelung City. (Image: Niou Chi-Ping / Vision Times)

The celebrations begin with the ritual of opening the gates of hell (開龕門) at Lao Da Gong Temple (老大公廟) at the start of the lunar month, and wrap up after the completion of the ritual of closing the gates of hell (關龕門) at midnight on the 29th day of the lunar month.

One of the folk dance performances in the grand parade. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)
One of the folk dance performances in the grand parade. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)

With the themes of “legacy and harmony (傳承與融合),” the 2019 Keelung Ghost Festival was organized by the Keelung City Hsu Family Association (許姓宗親會). Marking the 165th anniversary of the Ghost Festival, the festive celebrations culminated in a grand parade and the release of water lanterns from evening until midnight on the 14th day of the lunar month, which fell on August 14 this year.

A beautiful float from Cheng-Hu-Yao Family Association. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)
A beautiful float from the Cheng-Hu-Yao Family Association. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)

The opening ceremony of the parade was held at the Keelung Maritime Plaza in front of the Keelung Train Station, in which Taiwanese President Tsai was invited to give opening remarks. In addition, President Tsai, accompanied by Keelung City Mayor Lin Yu-chang, also joined the group from the hosting Hsu Family Association to lead the procession.

The eye-catching float from the Taiwan Falun Dafa Association. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)
The eye-catching float from the Taiwan Falun Dafa Association. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)

Participated in by 15 clan associations, as well as various public and civic organizations in Keelung City, the procession was comprised of dozens of colorful floats with water lanterns and a variety of traditional folk performances that stretched for about 2 kilometers.

The Falun Dafa Tian Guo Marching Band is one of the most popular performing groups in the procession. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)
The Falun Dafa Tian Guo Marching Band is one of the most popular performing groups in the procession. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)

In addition to the wonderful performances provided by various clan associations and civic groups, the Tian Guo Marching Band (天國樂團) and Waist Drum Team (腰鼓隊), along with an eye-catching float from the Taiwan Falun Dafa Association (台灣法輪大法學會), were among the most outstanding groups.

The Falun Dafa Waist Drum Team's majestic performance wins warm applause along the procession route. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)
The Falun Dafa Waist Drum Team’s majestic performance wins warm applause along the procession route. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)

Comprising 120 and 80 local Falun Gong practitioners respectively, they are the largest groups in the parade. The large sizes, coupled with their majestic performances, made them one of the most popular groups in the procession.

It is a custom for Keelung City residents to sit along the two sides of the street to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the event. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)
It is a custom for Keelung City residents to sit along the two sides of the street to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the event. (Image: Johnny Lin / Vision Times)

It has become the norm of life in Keelung to sit on the two sides of streets along the procession route after dinner to observe this important annual rendezvous and enjoy the festive atmosphere in the middle of the summer every year.

The water lanterns prepared by all the clan associations are lit at the seashore after the grand parade. (Image: Keelung City Government)
The water lanterns prepared by all the clan associations were lit at the seashore after the grand parade. (Image: Keelung City Government)

Right after the parade, the water lanterns prepared by all clan associations were transported to the seashore and released into the water.  The burning lanterns’ drifting off into the darkness signifies giving directions to the wandering ghosts and spirits of their ancestors.

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Billy Shyu
Billy has published over 100 articles on the beauty of Taiwan, traditional culture, and other interesting topics. He will continue to share more interesting articles with our readers.

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