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Hungry ghosts, red turtles - The Por Tor Festival

The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars is a classic Chinese text of Confucian family piety written by Guo Jujing during the Yuan dynasty (1260–1368). The text is an example of, in certain cases, extreme actions to fulfilling familial obligations. From killing offspring to free up their ration of food, breastfeeding toothless grandparents to tales of rather gruesome self harm, it’s not without its controversy nor for the faint of heart.

Community
By David Jacklin

Friday 31 August 2018, 12:00PM


If you visit the ornate Hok Nguan Kung Shrine just off the Surin ‘Clocktower’ Circle, enter through the dragon-adorning pillared entrance, and through the heavy musk of the incense blackened shrines you will find a wall tiled with illustrations depicting scenes from this ancient text.

Thankfully the moral duties to loved ones have lightened up a touch these days. This week the Por Tor festival held a series of processions and celebrations with a focal point around the ornate Chinese temples and shrines across Phuket Town.

Por Tor, or the ‘Hungry Ghost’ festival, is also all about merit making to your family, all be it deceased ones. For this is the month that restless ancestors are released from hell for their annual visit. Families in modern times need only to offer gifts and prayers to appease these wandering souls, while also gaining merit for their own selfless actions. Most notably is the offering of a red cake in the shape of a turtle, which is hoped awards the giver longevity.

Most charming of all are the processions in which the local community of dignitaries, officials and school children dress up in traditional clothing, including Chinese silk Cheongsam dresses, and parade through the town. On Monday (Aug 27) the people gathered at the Queen Sirikit Park at noon for the parade along Phuket Rd and Rassada Rd through to the main festivities in Ranong Rd.

The start of proceedings included the Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana leading the candle lighting and incense ceremony next to the golden sea dragon statue which fronts the park.

This was followed by an integrated and elegant performance of the traditional Thai and Chinese fan dances at the main stage, marking the cultural fusion of the festival in modern Phuket.

The procession then gets underway, with each section fronted by a banner depicting the proceeding group or school. Young adults and school children are the focus of the parade in their beautiful traditional dress, and carrying a variety of gifts to calm the groans of the hungry ghosts. It’s endearing enough to want to make a return journey from the other side.

Through the evening along Ranong Rd market vendors sell local street food delicacies, while a range of performances entertain the crowds on a main stage set up further along the street.

It’s a joy to see tradition upheld at this family-orientated event. Those peckish spectres must be satiated.

 

 

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