Ringing in Lunar New Year

As we say good-bye to the previous year and welcome the new year, Island residents here celebrate with family meals and prayers at Ping An Temple. While some residents arrive at the temple shortly after midnight to have the first prayers of the new year, most wait until the morning to pack in with the crowds and pray for good fortune throughout the year. There are many temples throughout the world. Our temple here in New Year’s Island, Ping An Temple, means: “peace.”

The Story of the Animals

The Lunar New Year calendar is divided into cycles of twelve years each, with every year also represented by one animal.  The Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven declared that the first 12 animals to cross the finish line of a race with many obstacles, would be representative of those years. . .

All the animals gathered, and the rat and the cat made acquaintance with one another.  They were going to work together to cross the finish line together. 

The ox was the leader of the pack and would for sure be the first animal across the finish line.  When the animals were resting, the rat saw the ox.  He did not wake up the cat, but went over to the ox and said, “I’ll sing to you and in return, can I ride on your back?”  The ox agreed and as the ox crossed the river, with the rat on top of his head, the rat saw the Emperor and then leaped forward off the ox to cross the finish line first.  This is why the rat is the first animal on the Lunar New Year calendar.

Rat; Ox; Tiger; Rabbit; Dragon; Snake; Horse; Sheep; Monkey; Rooster; Dog; Pig.  The cat woke up and it was too late, and that is why cats hate mice to this day!



The First Day of the New Year

搶頭香   Burn the first incense stick

People in China have gathered across the country’s temples to burn the first stick of incense for the Chinese Lunar New Year. 

Burning the first stick of incense is meant to give people the best luck and blessings and therefore people queue in their thousands on New Year’s Eve to give them the best start to the new year. 

The First Week of the New Year

安太歲 Pacify Taisui

Taisui is the god called respectfully in Taoism. He is also called “Taisui XingJun” or “year monarch.” Taisui refers to the planet of Jupiter which goes around the sun twelve-year for a cycle. Therefore, the ancients call Jupiter “year star” or “Taisui.” It is not only the star but also the god for folk sacrificing.

In Chinese custom, ten heavenly stems combined with twelve earthly branches to create a cycle of sixty years. Every year, there is a god (year monarch) in charge of world affairs. The god is called Taisui.

As the saying goes, “When Taisui takes charge of that year, it may not be happiness but sadness. ” People who run afoul Taisui will have bad fortune in a year, such as doing everything not well, doing business difficulty, and having sickness. For this reason, people go to the temple or worship Taisui at home in order to pray for goodness in life, business , wealth , and everything.

However, a person’s luck related to Taisui also depends on his/her zodiac animal sign. It can be divided into five kinds:

  • People whose animal sign is the same as Taisui will offend Taisui and encounter a lot of trouble in a year, and it may be happiness or sadness. When you are in trouble, you should fight for something hard with heart and soul.
  • People whose animal sign is conflicting with Taisui will run through the waves and toil the rocks in a year. The surroundings will change, and you will have the opportunity to move or change your job. Therefore, you should be cautious doing business or working.
  • People whose animal sign has conflict with Taisui indirectly will have lawsuits. It is not good for you to be a guarantor.
  • People whose animal sign is harmful to Taisui will encounter villains. They may have a villain in their jobs and suffer financial setbacks.

Taboos of Pacify Taisui

  • Don’t attend a funeral. When you attend the funeral, your fortune will be affected. If you would like to attend, it is best to avoid the last part of the funeral, or turn your back to the grave.
  • Don’t attend the feast celebrating the first month of a newborn baby. In ancient custom, giving birth is regarded as an obscure thing because it is the process of exhaustion during the birth. Although attending the feast is joyous, people who run afoul of Taisui should not participate. If you would like to participate in the feast, you can prepare a red envelope before you go outside.

How to Do the Pacify Taisui

The traditional way to worship Taisui is not only complicated but varied. You should write down your exact time of birth and name on the golden paper and worship at the god position with offering tea and fruit. It should be done on the 15th of every lunar month. Then, hold the ceremony to thank Taisui with tea and fruit on 24th of December. However, you can pay the fee and ask someone to do the rituals or you can pay without money to do this on the Internet nowadays. It is convenient. 

點光明燈 Light Good Fortune Lamps

The story behind the lighting of lamps at Daoist temples is an interesting one.

Legend has it that the first person to light a lamp was a poor woman who sold her long hair in exchange for an oil lamp which she lit as a tribute to Buddha.
The purity of her heart kept the lamp alight despite strong winds and driving rain.

Lin Jhen-yi, Fortune Teller

The lighting of lamps originated from Buddhism, said religion expert Lin Jhen-yi. Daoism took on the Buddhist habit of lighting good-fortune lamps to pray for peace, for a recovery from illness, for success in a career, or for prosperity.

As the custom passed down through the generations, many believers in this traditional custom go to their temple just before the Lunar New Year every year to light a lamp in the hope of having some good luck over the coming year.

14th-16th Days of the Chinese / Lunar New Year

鹽水蜂炮  Yanshui Beehive Firecrackers

It’s a specific way to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Yanshui district of Tainan. The fireworks explode in all directions, which is a kind of custom to defeat the misfortune for the coming New Year.

But it’s an extremely dangerous tradition. All participants have to protect themselves with a full helmet, a thick jacket, gloves, and so on.

炸寒單爺 The Lord Handan Festival

The Lord Handan Festival is a specific custom during the Lantern Festival of Taitung. Who is Lord Handan? People generally believe that Lord Handan is the God of Wealth. According to legend, he disliked the cold, so people would throw firecrackers at him during his inspection tours to keep him warm.

Every year, someone is selected to play the role of Lord Handan. The person only wears a pair of red shorts and covers his face with a towel. Then, he stands on a sedan chair and accepts as people throw firecrackers to his naked body.

It’s crowded every year because people want to see this impressive activity in person!

放天燈  Set off a sky lantern 

it’s a traditional activity during the Lantern Festival. People write their wishes on sky lanterns to pray for peace and everything going well for the coming New Year. And the scenery of sky lanterns flying is really beautiful.