No, this is not a religous post, so don’t run away. Hahahaha.
Yesterday evening, we joined our older kids’ secondary school for a [tag]Heritage[/tag] Walk to raise funds to repair their St. Xavier Institution. We walked through the older parts of the island and along the way, I shot some of these photos.
The Hungry [tag]Ghost[/tag] Festival is in full blast now and every corner you turn, you are bound to bump into makeshift altars like these. When passing by places like these, we were taught to pay a respect by putting our hands together and pray. (of course, not applicable to faiths who don’t do this, including the current me) Pregnant women and small babies are usually advised not to go near places like these because their ‘immunity’ are lower. What you see hanging up there are gold papers, denoting gold ingots. Very painstakingly folded. Beautiful, isn’t it?
At the far end, you can see a concert going on. In the foreground, are foods donated by the community. The foods are placed there to feed the supposedly hungry ghosts first. All these foods will later be distributed to the poor when the festival is over. This is where all the [tag]souls[/tag] or [tag]spirits[/tag] are gathering. The concert is to entertain ‘them’. We call ‘them’ ho hia tee or good brothers. There is one story which I am not sure if everyone have heard of. Once, there was this woman with a small baby. So, she went to a place like this to help out. As she has to sweep the floor, she left her small baby on the red table. Then, she went about to do the chores, clearing up the place etc. When she was finished, she returned to found that her baby is dead. According to [tag]folklore[/tag] (this is more of an urban myth, ok?), the good brothers mistaken the baby for an offering and took the baby’s life.
When we were small, and practising [tag]Taoism[/tag], we don’t have [tag]religious[/tag] books to follow. So, most of what was told to us were illustrated through all these effigiies. In some temples. there are gory looking statues of fierce looking god like the above. Some of them step on some poor looking souls. My mom would told me, “If you tell lies, you will get your tongue cut off like those statues.” Other things are – if one commit adultery, the adulterous couple will be fried in burning oil, gambling or stealing will cause the hand to be chopped off and etc. The above paper effigy is the god of[tag] hades[/tag], who takes care of all those whom had been sent to hell. Notice that there is Kuan Yin above him? Well, in Taoism, there are many levels of authority.
This old man in yellow robe is the ‘poh tiau pek’ whom is like the Chinese version of St. Peter stationed at the gate of hell. There are mediums (normal man) whom can go into trance as him. Usually, if a person is sick, they will seek the medium in this form. Of course, the real medium don’t have tongue sticking out like this. But they will check if the person is dying or how the person can be saved. If you observe, outside hospitals main entrances, you can find some families, burning offerings in the evenings. These families are actually praying that their relatives in the hospital can be saved from being summoned by the ‘bull’s horn god’ another, type of god whom is believed to come drag your soul to the next level. We call the bull’s horn god, Gu moh ong (some bull’s king).
Of all these altars, there is one altar which is the highest level, meant for the heavenly [tag]god[/tag] or Thnee Kong. And for Thnee Kong, there is no effigy to represent this heavenly god because he is the unseen god accorded the highest respect. So, if you look closely, no doubt that the practice here has a lot of statues and rituals, people are praying for their passage to heaven and hell. It keeps them on the straight and narrow path.
And where exactly I am getting to? I am just plain tired of looking at all those debates and wars about the differences in our respective religions. God (however you perceive Him) would have been very pleased to see all His creations stop fidgeting and fighting and just behave. Condemning another [tag]faith[/tag] is not going to give you a ticket to heaven. Being able to live cohesively in a world with others’ differences may prevent us from getting to hell. ‘Cos you if can’t live peacefully here on earth, God may sent you to hell to live with all those buggers and learn your lesson there. Muahahar…
As I said, this is not a religious post.