Origins of the Phuket Vegetarian
Fasting ceremonies have always been practiced
and are named "Chai" in Taoism religion.
In 1825, Phuket was covered with a dense
forest inhabited by tigers and other fierce creatures. Chinese people - survivors of the 1809's Burma invasion
and Chinese "Hokkien", Suo Thao" and
"Ai Ming", gathered in Nai Tu Village (today:
Kathu) where Tin mines offered job opportunities. Kathu
was prosperous, counting numerous houses and shops, even
a Chinese opera!
At that time, a mysterious fever was spreading
in villages surrounding Kathu. The opera's responsible
noted that old and traditional rituals were not made as well as in China.
He decided to set up a fasting ritual with the actors of
the troup. After 9 days of fasting, the disease stopped
and no one in Kathu got sick afterward.
However, a Chinese man from Kang-Si thought
that a lot of differences remained in the ritual, compared with the way it was done in China. He offered to
go back to China in search of sacred statues, items
and healing books. People from Nai Tu collected money to
help him: travel to China and come back was a long
way in the middle of XIXth century.
One year later, he arrived in Phuket at Bang Niao
pier, on the 7th day of the ninth lunar month.
He brought back books, talismans, magic formulas, and a
sign to place at the front of the shrine. All people
from Kathu went to welcome him and escort him back to Kathu
in a procession: Phuket Vegetarian festival was born.
36,000 Gods and specific divinities
protect and take care about each person. In return, it is
only asked to lay flowers on the spirit house all year round.
Once a year, a fast has to be done: in that way, all sins
are pushed away. It is a matter of fact that the diseases
was caused by all the bad actions, weird thought and naughty
behavior. After fasting, everything is great,
a good feeling spreads in the community. This ceremony of
fast, named "Djè Chai" or "Troot Djin"
in Phuket, is held on the nine first days of the ninth month
of the Chinese year. The figure 9 is an entirety symbol.
10 commitments to be followed during the Festival
Cleanliness of the body
Use special kitchen ustensils only for the festival
Dress in white or in a very light color
Behave physically and mentally
Don't eat: meat, fish, eggs, milk
No alcoholic beverage
People in mourning should not go to any ceremony
Pregnant ladies should not go to any ceremony
Women in their period should not go to any ceremony
On the last evening of the festival, you could assist and participate in the 'crossing the bridge' ceremony which happens in all Chinese shrines involved in the festival. People who did not follow the commitments seriously should not try to cross the bridge, as they may fail to reach its other end. People who cross the bridge successfully receive a red stamp on the back of their white shirt or Tshirt as a reward from the Gods for their commitment.
Phuket Town, nowadays...
Exept the Muslim community, the entire city follows the
Festival and, if it's possible, the rituals. Everyone
dressed in white, without any bad thought nor violent
behavior. Everyone eats the delicious vegetarian cuisine,
goes to watch the miraculous healing ceremonies, the mortifications,
that are not a display of power but a way to pay for other
When mediums pierce their cheeks, walk on
fire, beat their back with an axe or climb a razor blades
ladder, it's to take on them all the pain and sorrow,
all misfortune and sadness from the world.
to make you feel better. Possessed by a god, they don't
feel pain anymore. When a medium comes close to you, good
luck for you, join your hands as in a prayer and listen carefully:
a God is talking to you...
Text written by Bobol.
Each year the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand
gives all information about the festival.
Authority of Thailand
Southern office : Region 4
73-75 Phuket Road, Amphoe Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Tél. +66 (0)76 211036, 212213, 217138
Fax. +66 (0)76 213582
The office is open all year round from 8.30 am till
Phuket Vegetarian Festival Photo Gallery 2009