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The Taoist Ceremony to Dispel Disaster

Jan. 13, 2021

Xia Yuan Festival is a traditional festival on October 15th in the lunar calendar and November 29th in the solar calendar this year. Its origin is derived from Taoism and this is the birthday of the celestial emperor also known as the Official/God of Water.
As one of the oldest gods in Taoism, the Water God has two brothers, the gods of Heaven and Earth. The God of Heaven is in charge of giving blessings, the God of Earth grants absolution to wrongdoings, while the God of Water dispels disaster and misfortune. Together, they form the “三官大帝 (sān guān dàdì) Three Holy Emperors” of the Taoist religion.

Thus there are three festivals, at different times of the year that celebrate the wonders associated with these celestial emperors. San Yuan – known as the lantern festival, JungYuan – known as the hungry ghost festival, and of course, Xia Yuan.

Customs

Praying to gods

The primary custom of this festival is closely connected with agricultural production. For example, many families in Fujian province take the worship “仪式 (yí shì) ceremony” to the farmlands during the evening of this day to pray that farmlands become saturated and are safe during the dry winter months. Joss sticks are inserted with food on the field edge to show piety while sacrificing.

仪式 (yí shì): n. ceremony

Example:

tā men xī wàng tā cān jiā diǎn lǐ.
他们希望他参加典礼。
They expected him to participate in the ceremony.

yí shì shì jīng xīn chóu huà de.
仪式是精心筹划的。
It is an elaborate ceremony.

Special food for this festival

Food is one most important aspects of the customs for each festival. This includes dumplings for the Spring festival, glutinous rice balls for the Lantern Festival, and moon cakes for the Mid Autumn festival. The various foods help shape the nation’s shared “情感 (qíng gǎn) emotion” greatly affects the development of the festivals.

情感 (qíng gǎn): n. emotion

Example:

xiào shì zuì jù gǎn rǎn lì de qíng gǎn biǎo dá fāng shì zhī yī.
笑是最具感染力的情感表达方式之一。
Laughter is one of the most infectious expressions of emotion.

qíng gǎn de liú lù huì zhāo zhì cāi yí.
情感的流露会招致猜疑。
Displays of emotion are regarded with suspicion.

For the Xia Yuan Festival, the most famous specialty food item is the “red bean bun” coming from Beijing, which can be seen every day now, but was only seen on the 15th of the tenth month several thousand years ago.

National Costumes

The Xia Yuan Festival has a serious and solemn ambiance and the main theme is solemnity and simplicity, thus gaudy and showy costumes are not logical. When offering sacrifices men typically wear dark color clothes while women prefer to wear darkly colored clothes and skirts.

It is not necessarily true that all the people take part in this ceremony with great fanfare. Oftentimes it’s a personal event.
One cherished action during the Xia Yuan Festival is making a positive wish for people to get relief from any “困境 (kùn jìng) dilemmas” or hardships. It is commonly believed that the emperor or official of the waters was charged with the movement and flow of the seas, streams, brooks, rivers, and rain but also to address the aspect of human sin and alleviating the hardships incurred by the average person. To pay their respects people will provide offerings to the emperor of the Waters during the Xia Yuan festival. By praying to him on this day, in a sincerely remorseful way, it is suggested that all your dilemmas and misfortunes can be deleted from the ‘spiritual records’ and you are free to begin fresh.

The sacrificial offering for the water official does not mean you have to believe in Taoism. The water official is a religious god from the perspective of a cultural symbol, expressing the wish for protection in the future, as well as the mutual wish between people.

困境(kùn jìng): n. dilemma

Examples:

tā men shì tú bǎi tuō kùn jìng.
他们试图摆脱困境。
They try to find a way out of their dilemma.

wǒ sì hū xiàn rù le yī zhǒng kùn jìng zhōng.
我似乎陷入了一种困境中。
I seem to be in a dilemma.

Now that you know this is an important festival to take the time to show remorse and make wishes to protect your family from misfortune and dilemmas, take the time to think about what you wish for. May your ancestors and relatives have good fortune during the last moon festival of the year.

HSK 3 quiz
Choose the right choice to fill the blanket.

1.wǒ bǎ xīnzhōng de suǒyǒu_______dōu fāxièle chūlái.
我把心中的所有_______都发泄了出来。

2.tāmen xīwàng tā cānjiā_______.
他们希望他参加_______。

A.仪式 (yí shì)
B.情感(qíng gǎn)
C.困境(kùn jìng)
D.走神(zǒushén)

See Answer Analysis

You May Want to Learn More:

Quintessential Customs of Double Ninth Festival 重阳节 (chóng yáng jié)

How Tomb Sweeping Day was Different This Year in China Due to COVID-19

Why Is the Chinese Tradition Upside Down? It’s a Good Omen

HSK 1 quiz

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