This annual event is held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The amazing Vegetarian Festival, which is certainly not for the faint hearted, is celebrated by the entire Chinese community here in Phuket and is their most important festival.
It is believed that the festival was originally started in Phuket by group of travelling Chinese opera singers who fell ill whilst performing on the island. This group decided to stick to a strict vegetarian diet to honour two of the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh, to ensure purification of the mind and body. The group recovered from their illness and celebrated by holding a festival to honour the gods and express happiness at surviving.
It is strongly believed that the vegetarian festival, along with its accompanying sacred rituals, bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite. During this 9 day event, local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe the following commitments for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making:
- Cleanliness of bodies during the festival
- Clean kitchen utensils and to use them separately from other who do not join the festival
- Wear white during the festival
- Behave physically and mentally
- No meat eating
- No sex
- No alcohol
- People at mourning period should not attend the festival
- Pregnant ladies should not watch any ritual
- Ladies with period should not attend the ritual
To mark the start of, and throughout the entire 9 days, the whole of Phuket Town will fly yellow flags and 9 lanterns will be lit up at the most important Chinese Temples and placed aloft on Ko Teng poles. However, it is on the 6th day of the festival when the religious processions take place and incredible spectacles can be seen. These spectacles include climbing ladders made of knives, fire walking, and the incredible processions. The latter take place in the morning all over the island and involve entranced ma song (horses of the gods) piercing their faces with everything from spikes and knives to lawn furniture and bikes – some cut themselves with axes or swords as they walk. On the last day, there will be a “Koi Han” ceremony to exorcize ill fortune and a farewell ceremony for the deities at night.
Throughout the entire festival you will be certain to hear firecrackers being lit in their thousands wherever you are on the island.
Schedule 2011 for Street Processions of Chinese Shrines
Sunday, September 29
- Sapam Shrine
Monday, September 30
- Samkong Shrine
Tuesday, October 1
- Baan Tha Rue Shrine
Wednesday, October 2
- Bang Neow Shrine
- Cherng Thalay Shrine
Thursday, October 3
- Jui Tui Shrine
Friday, October 4
- Kathu Shrine
- Yok Ke Keng Shrine
Saturday, October 5
- Sui Boon Tong Shrine