* Traditional Folk Ceremony

The Yimin Festival has begun!

The Hsinpu Yimin Temple is also called Baojhong Temple. As time went by, the color of the horizontal inscription board gradually turned black from incense smoke. Its color is just like the black band tied on the arms of the Yimin Troops for identification in the war, and now the black flag, the “Yimin Flag,” is an extension of that practice, and is used by the Hakka force remonies to worship the troops and commemorate their contribution. During the Yimin Festival, there is a special worship ceremony for which believers bring their “Baojhong Yimin Incense Flag”(black flag) to Yimin Temple to pass through the incense smoke (過火) and guide the gods home to enshrine and worship them.

* Carrying Shoulder Poles for“Fengfan”

End of June to the End of July of the Lunar Calendar

“Fengfan” means to present meals and prepare food for Yiminye, which is a unique ceremony in Hakka’s Yimin beliefs. The reason the Hakka people observe Fengfan is that in the Qing dynasty, civil commotion occurred so often in Taiwan that the Hakka people organized volunteers to protect their lands and homes. To thank those volunteers, other Hakka folks would carry shoulder poles with prepared food for them. To this day, ever since the Yimin Temple was built, believers have prepared daily meals to worship the Yimin spirits and show gratitude for the grace of the Yimin. This is called "Fengfan."

* Erecting Lantern Poles

July 18 of the Lunar Calendar

Erecting lantern poles means to erect three big bamboo poles in front of Yimin Temple, upon which there are seven-star lanterns to guide ghosts, who are also called “Good Brothers.” According to legend, a one-foot lantern pole can attract wandering ghosts within three kilometers, so the higher the lantern pole, the more the Good Brothers will be attracted, and the more offerings are prepared. Lantern poles will guide souls from all over the province, along with the Lord of Foundations, to come and enjoy all the offerings provided at the temple by believers without then being expelled. This provides a resting place for wandering souls, which is one of the beliefs of "Salvation" in the Yimin Temple.

* Circle of Life, The Blessing of Long Life

Lighting the Doudeng (lantern) – July 18 of the Lunar Calendar

A Dou lantern, an item commonly used for exorcising evil spirits and praying for blessings, is an important instrument used in a ceremony to pray to the gods, imploring them to bless folks with peace and prosperity. It is believed that all living beings in the world are governed by stars, where one star represents one person, so a Dou lantern is worshiped in the temple to pray for peace. A Dou lantern is filled with rice, a candle, a mirror, a ruler, scissors, and other items. The ruler represents the earth; candlelight and the mirror bring hope; the ruler can measure the merits and demerits of life; scissors can exorcise evil. After the ceremony, the rice will be distributed to each household in the festival area, where people believe eating the rice can surely bring them safety and peace.

* Inviting the Gods to be Our Guests

Reporting to and Inviting the Gods – July 18 of the Lunar Calendar

A master will invite gods from all realms to come down by presenting a list of believers and reporting to the gods that the Zhouyuan Pudu (Ghost Festival) will be held here. As the invited gods, all come from the Three Realms, the altar will be set up with a higher and a lower table; the higher one is set with lamp holders to serve Heaven with “six dry and six wet” vegetarian offerings, including rice cake, red rice cake, fruits, desserts, rice noodles, and fungi, while the lower one serves sugar towers, “three sacrifices”, and fruits. The master will start the ceremony in front of the Buddha by chanting, toasting, and burning paper to Sanguan Pavilion, Da Shi Ye, Baozhong Pavilion, Hanlin Academy, the Bureau of Common Return, Jianzhai (Xiangbianbelievers) and Zhaojun (kitchen believers) respectively, inviting all gods to come down to participate in or supervise the ceremony.

* Salvation for All, Releasing Water Lanterns

July 19 of the Lunar Calendar

Releasing water lanterns on the very dark road from the underworld to this world is to light the road ahead for wandering ghosts residing in water ways or the land and call them to receive worship. If the ghosts of the river can climb onto the lanterns, they can receive salvation and escape from misery. The ritual is often held in the evening in Hakka villages. When releasing water lanterns, the monks will set up the altar with offerings in the open space near the river and commence the riverside ritual with reading, oration, and chanting to help the dead spirits leave the waterway, so they can then alight atop a candle in the lantern and let the lantern flow away on the water. Later, a Daoist priest will hold a red banner and read “the sutra on summoning back souls ”to return ghosts from the waterway back to the land. People believe that as the lantern floats farther, more ghosts will be returned to the land, and the person who releases the lantern will earn more blessings, such as a successful career and peace for the family.

* The Supreme Glory ofthe GreatPig, the God Pig Contest,

July 20th of the Lunar Calendar

Another highlight of the Yimin Festival is the God Pig Contest, where the best pigs with the smoothest fur are raised with sincerity and respect to be dedicated to the YiminYe. Most of the winning god pigs are decorated with colorful and brightly lit frames and a shed to show respect and bring good fortune. It is said that it takes more than three years to raise a normal pig to over one thousand kilograms by carefully feeding it animal food, milk, bread dough, Huang cake, and vegetables every day, and keeping the pigsty ventilated and cool. It also requires lots of blessings for the pig’s health and winning the prize at the contest. Raising a god pig would be such a burden, so why bother? The only reason is that it is a tremendous honor to win the prize, so people never grow tired of it! Source: Encyclopedia of Taiwan, Ministry of Culture