“齋” in Chinese means staying pure, both the body and mind, to pay respect to the angels. This Chinese letter can be seen everywhere on the yellow flags during Vegetarian Festival across Thailand.
For local people, the festival is usually called “Jia Chai” (食菜) which means “Eat Vegetable”. The Vegetarian Festival was originally brought to Thailand from China according to many different legends. In Phuket, which is one of the centres of the festival across the country, Jia Chai, as the legend told, started in the area of Kathu District before 1825 when a traditional Chinese Opera troupe relocated in the area, as there were plenty of tin mining and the economy across the area was booming. After a while, a number of people started to get sick, reminding the Chinese Opera troupe that they forgot to make the ceremony they used to do back in their hometown to pay respect to the Nine Emperor Gods and the Jade Emperor God and become vegan for nine days or depending on each individual convenience and appropriation. The ceremony since then has spread around the island and has been carried on from one generation to another, starting on the beginning of the ninth lunar month.
As mentioned earlier, you can see that the Vegetarian Festival wasn’t created only because of health concerns but also as a spiritual matter. It is believed that during the Vegetarian Festival, people should remain clean from inside out, which means not only avoid eating animal products but behave well, stay positive, control bad emotions, and be strict in the five precepts.
Traveling around Phuket town area, you will be observing houses’ exquisitely decorated shelves with Chinese angels, the Nine Emperor Gods that people pay respect to during the festival. During the festival, the are plenty of soul-stirring parade of ‘ma song’ from different shrines across Phuket as well as thrilling ceremonies such as fire walking and blade ladder climbing to pay respect to the angels, bless people and of course, plenty of delicious vegan food available at every corner of the island.
People along the way of the parade, especially on the last day which is the biggest day of the fest, usually prepare a worshiping table to welcome the Masong to bless their family.
The biggest parade of the last day gathers Masong from all Chinese shrines in Phuket who stab or slash themselves with different items as they believe this sacrifice will take away bad fortune, sickness, and danger from those who take part in the festivities. The destination of the parade is Sapanhin Park with millions of firecrackers blasting along the way as the sign of the end of the festival and to send the angels back to heaven.
Many different kinds of vegan food can be found across the island including Thanyapura’s fine dining restaurants where we have created a special raw vegan menu that indulges your taste buds while boosting your health during the clean festival. For more information about the vegetarian festival week at Thanyapura, please go to www.thanyapura.com/event/thanyapura-vegetarian-festive-week/