The Mid-summer Ghost Festival Rite has its origins spread through the ages. Convention becomes customary. According to a Taoist saying, the Mid-summer Ghost Festival originated from birthday of the Earth God on July 15 in the lunar calendar, when the Earth God in charge of hell got a whim of compassion, issued an amnesty decree so hell released many ghost prisoners. From the first day of the seventh lunar month, souls and ghosts are able to return to this world and accept the ritual bestowed food for one month, to stir their hearts to the Tao.
While another Buddhist belief is the “Feast of All Souls”. According to legend, in order to rescue mother who fell into hungry ghost domain, Buddha disciple Venerable Maudgalyayana made “Ulambana” on July 15, prepared 5 fruits 100 flavors to support the ten directions, so his mother freed herself from the bitter hell, to return to the West and rise to heaven. The believers are convinced that July 15 is the successful date when the monks conduct spiritual retreat and are enlightened. If you offer alms to bhadanta of the ten directions this day, you can increase a hundredfold blessing.
Since the ultimate aim of both Feast of All Souls and Mid-summer Ghost Festival lies in delivering all living creatures from torment, as a long time has passed, the boundaries between the two become blurred, and the noble spirit of Mid-summer Ghost Festival, which currently harbors the Chinese people's tolerance, universal love, and reverence for ancestors is formed.
The Keelung Mid-summer Ghost Festival originated from the Zhang Quan battle in August of the first year in Xianfeng reign (1851), resulting in a large number of casualties on both sides. When provocation revenge was about to happen, Zhang Quan local people came forward to mediate. The conflict of the fights finally subsided, which was replaced with taking turns on main salvation via surnames. They transgressed and bestowed extensively on lonely ghosts, replaced the geographical concepts with blood relationship, replaced bad habits of breaking heads with competition in grand parades, to achieve social harmony and a universally harmonious world of coexistence and mutual prosperity. It has been carried out for a century and has a long history.
The Keelung Mid-summer Ghost Festival began 1855. So far 160 years has passed. The ones with 11 surnames of Chang Liao Chien, Wu, Liu Tang She, Chen Hu Yao, Hsieh, Lin, Chiang, Cheng, Ho Lan Han, Lai, Hsu took turns on duty for main salvation according to the order from drawing lots. In 1954 the ones with surnames of Li, Kuo, Wang, Yang Tseng, Huang, Ko Tsai, Chiu, Su Chou Lien, Chung Hsiao Yeh, Pai, Yu Hsu Hsu, Tung Tung formed joint surnames to join the ranks of the main salvation and became twelve units, taking turns for main salvation. Afterward in 1981 three surnames of Kuo, Li, Huang among the joint surnames detached from the joint surname association and the current fifteen units came about. Starting from opening of shrine door in Laodagong temple on July 1 in the lunar calendar, going through turning on lights and illuminating the main salvation altar on the 12th, on the 13th greeting bucket light procession and praying for blessing, on the fourteenth release of water lanterns and parade, release of water lanterns at the seaside and on the 15th public and private salvation, Zhongkui dance, shutting the shrine door on August 1, the activity time of Mid-summer Ghost Festival is up to one month.
The folk festival has a harmonizing function for community residents, and stimulates a sense of creation in community in general. After years of sophistication, the Mid-summer Ghost Festival is raised to human activity shared and enjoyed by refined and popular together. The audience can participate in religious activities to satisfy the comfort of the heart. Likewise, it may be regarded as a folk art tour. You can enjoy the local culture characteristics. Each ritual of the Keelung Mid-summer Ghost Festival has historical tradition, cultural and folk significance. Opening of the shrine door enables all lonely ghosts to get to this world so as to receive nectar and ritual food, listen to scripture and divine words, and be relieved. The “Bucket lamp” represents the strong relationship of namesake consanguinity life community, on which there are rule, scissors, scale, sword, and mirror. Each represents a “certain” auspicious meaning. The handover of surname hand-warmer symbolizes “legacy from generation to generation.” The release of a water lamp is to light the way for lonely souls on water, attract them to land to share. On July 15, Zhongkui dance means to escort lonely souls back to the underworld. Shut the shrine door on August 1, so that lonely souls return to the underworld lest they should damage this world. All the Keelung Mid-summer Ghost Festival rituals in the 7th month of lunar calendar end in a satisfactory way.
Thanks to all the citizens of Keelung City who donated money and made effort, and careful planning by all relevant units, Keelung Mid-summer Ghost Festival can develop into the wonderful event internationally highlighting Taiwan. It is hoped by this festival may cohere the power of mutual blessing by citizens, polish the beautiful name of Keelung City as an international tourist metropolis, render the citizens more united, for a zero pollution economy of Keelung.