Although “Shih Gang Zi Xiang” isn’t held regularly in the fourth month of the year of Chou, Chen, Wei and Xu (by lunar calendar) and it may vary in different temple branches, the arrangement is usually done according to god’s direction and is settled as follows: .

1. La-miao (January 9th of the previous year)
   La-miao is a meeting that people make plans for the coming Gua-xiang activity. It is a way of notifying temple followers and the neighbors the coming ceremony. It is also a way of gathering new ideas for the ceremony.

2. Zhhu-Hui-Jiao-Xuan (January 9th of the previous year)
   Shih Gang includes areas such as: Shih Gang street, Jiao-zi-tou, Wa-cu-nei, and Hai-nan pu. Usually, local leaders of these places are to be selected to participate this ceremony and Qian Sui god will pick five of them to be the main characters of the next ceremony: the chairman, the deputy, the co-organizer, the organizer, and the prayer. These five people carry significant responsibilities in the rituals.

3. Locate specific materials (This job must be done by October in previous year)

(1) Locating specific materials for the rituals is the most important job at beginning. Traditionally, they take a couple of real trees for the rituals. It is usually Chinese Banyan that are chosen.

(2) These trees are taken as treasures. People held some rituals to inform gods that the treasures had been found so the god can recognize these valuables.

(3) Once the rituals are performed, people bring back these trees back to their temple and leave it in the factory to make a King Ship. At this moment, the factory is automatically transferred into a sacred place where is banned to enter unless authorized.

 (4) These trees must be peeled and be painted with red paints. Red color represent good luck and happiness.

 (5) Greeting valuables is a ritual to be practiced before these trees are send to Nan-hai-pu King Ship factory. A Taoist priest performs a ritual of greeting tree spirits.

 (6) After these valuables are brought back to the temple, there are two more rituals to be performed. One is greeting and the other is setting valuables in the temple. The first worship (toward trees) will be held after the trees are settled. These rituals are taken in the lateral hall.

 (7) This ritual is made to ask more blessing from gods. Back to Top  

4. Setting on dragon eyes, clothes, five string colored lines
   Setting on dragon eyes is a ritual of putting wood eyes for the dragon carved on King Ship. King Ship is spiritually given a real life when the eyes are placed. Decorating a red cloth on the top center of the ship is the next step. At the middle of the red cloth, a mirror of monster must be attached to the cloth which is believed to be able to expel evils. Setting up five strings of colored lines and attaching three ancient coins with each of the lines are the next step.

5. Choose a flag officer (in the middle of January)
   An flag officer was an state governor who holds a blue flag with the word “Ling (Commend)”. This flag gives royal powers to a flag officer when carry on duties. These men are called flag officers. In holy pilgrimage, such culture still exists. An flag officer was sent by Qian Sui god and was given the duty of looking after people on the earth. He/She also has to guide a troop holding Qian Sui god’s Commend and solves problems. This is a highly respected position in gods, and many of the culture followers are eager to fight for this role to play in the ceremony. In Shih Gang, people cast the divining blocks to ask for god’s opinion and this is held at the middle of the January. Back to Top  

6. Making an Official Gate
   The Incense ceremony in Sing An temple includes a gate building. People make a door that represent an official gate. This gate is called “Xing-tai (a platform)”where is decorated exactly the same as the doors in temples. All the carvings and patterns are very similar to those ones in the temple.

7. The Capitan of King Ship
   The captain and his two helpers are selected to organize things in building the ship. These people will have to go up to the ship and lead the ship. These people are also chosen through casting divining blocks. Back to Top  

8. Rise Light pole/ Sing An temple: in the end of the March; 78 villages involved: at the beginning of April
   Usually, the ceremony of sending disease gods away is performed nearby the temple. People rise light poles according to their traditions. This rising light pole ritual is meant to greet gods come into the ceremony. Furthermore, it represents an invitation to wondering ghosts to come for a festival. Ghosts may be crossed over through this ceremony.

9. South Patrol/ At the end of March
   South patrol is a day trip. People leave their temple and come back when the nights come. The place they patrol is in downtown Tainan and Ren-de township. The first stop was Qing-long temple in Chia-li village which located in the north of Sing An temple. Thus, at the beginning of this trip, it is actually a way of going north rather than going south. The chairman of Qing-long temple, Wu Zhen-ren, is believed to be the selected one that represents a god. Therefore, he was arranged to be one of the main characters who greet gods in the practice of South Patrol.

10. King Ship launching ceremony/ At the beginning of April
   King Ship launching ceremony was not an actual loading the ship onto the water. It is an operation of spilling some water onto the ship and this operation symbolizes the ship has been going onto the water. After water was spilled to the ship, people work together to move the ship for five meters long. The movement of this ship symbolizes the ship has been, from now on, sailing on water. Later, every one grab a ladle and spill water to the four directions: the South, the North, the West, and the East. This signifies the ship is on water already.  Back to Top  

11. Making temporary residences for gods.
   During the patrolling period, these gods are provided residences so that they can take a rest. The main hall is established inside the temple. On the left, it is Zong -jun residence. On the right, it is Zong-gan residence. In Zong-jun residence, people worship Zong-jin god who is responsible for guarding the safety of Qian Sui god. Zong-gan residence is, on the other hand, a place where people worship Zong-gan god. Zong-gan is a god of leadership and is responsible for guiding Qian Sui god out into the ocean. During this ceremony of sending disease god away, the main hall is the most sacred place. No one will be allowed to enter unless authorized. Yu-ci Sing An temple worship the Mother God usually. However, during the ceremony, it also worships Qian Sui god. This worship to Qian Sui god often starts from the 5th of April.

12. Welcome the Mother God – Matu/ at the middle of April
   People in Shih Gang Zi went to Lu-er-men to pick up Matu (the statue of Matu) before holy pilgrimage began. In 1985, it was supposed to be a trip to pick up Matu in Tu Chen. However, some people changed their mind and went to Pei-kang to pick up the statue of Pei-kang mother god. This had caused a serious argument of the people in Tu Chen. They eventually brought back their own Matu statue and swore never to participate this ceremony again.

13.Ceremony of sending fire gods away (Huo qiao)/ at one afternoon in the middle of April
   This is a ceremony of sending fire gods away and means to expel fire accidents from everyday in the future. People worship fire gods first and then they send fire gods away. Back to Top  

14. Boiling oil and expel the evil/ the night of sending fire god away
   Before the ceremony of sending fire god away, people must boil oil inside the main hall. This symbolizes cleaning the evil spirits from the coming people and purifying the main hall. When the workers of ceremony pass by the old tank, the Taoist priest will spray some rice wine above the boiling oil tank and cause some sparkles. This is believed to be able to expel evil things out of people.

15. Greeting god/the day of sending fire god away, midnight.
  “Qing Wang” means to greet Qian Sui god. In Shih Gang, Qing Wang and Song Wang (send god away) ceremonies are held at the same place in Zseng Wen area. At the King Ship factory, people prepare tables of food and tools for this ritual. Once everything is settled, the ceremony starts and Qian Sui god is welcomed.  Back to Top  

16. Greeting Xian-Ku-Niang-Ma in Ku-ma temple
  More than two hundreds years ago, it was 1784. One follower of Ku-ma temple found a ship of gods drifted in Zseng wen river. The villagers thus brought this ship to Ku-ma temple and worship it. At that time, the neighborhood villages, such as Ku-ma temple, Ba-fen, East bamboo forest, Litchi forest, Wu bamboo forest, double Cheng, Under village, Guan village, Mango forest, Back village, Lower village, Tou village, and the Iron-made village had decided to start the holy pilgrimage every three years. Ku-ma temple is the origin of Shih Gang Qua Xiang (share incense in Shih Gang).

17. Pu-du /The Ghost Festival (Four days long, be held with the share of incense)
 According to traditions, the Taoist priests arranged five days of work and these works were to be finished into three days. On the first day, sky flags and peace flags are to be set up calling for protection. People read Chao-tan-da-can aloud and offer seven goods as contribution. A golden board will be hanged to expel evils. On the second day, people took routes in the town with valuables and this represents offering sacrifices to gods. Water lanterns would be released at night. On the last day, all kinds of gods must be offered with proper sacrifices, so did the weather gods and the disease gods.

18. Gua-xiang and Rao-jing (share of incense and the territorial circumventing)/ in the end of April (the fourth day of greeting gods, usually performed with Pu-du)
 After the ritual of greeting gods in King Ship, people who were selected to represent gods start to take territorial circumventing for three days. This route taking is a ceremony that is believed to bring peace home. All the temples in the nearby area send their own shrines, head stations. Centipede station is a station made up with 108 children, and 12 people to represent the 12 disease gods. Every one of the 12 disease gods must ride a horse and lead the troops into two directions. The Centipede station led by 108 children goes in a direction. People take their children to go underneath the Centipede station in seeking of children’s health. The other troop in a different direction is led by the 12 disease gods. People set tables with food in front of their houses and fire crackers to welcome these gods. Some of the villagers also provide water and tea for people who participate these stations.  Back to Top  

19. Pu-du / ghost festival
 Pu-du is a ghost festival that are prepared for ghosts wondering in the world. It starts with the rising of light poles which represents an announcement of the beginning of the festival. All the village followers prepare fine foods for ghosts. All the foods set for ghosts on table are inserted with a little flag with the name of the household who prepared them.

20. Sending gods away (burn King Ship)/ the next day of Gua-xiang (share incense)
 Sending King Ship away was believed to be able to send bad luck away in the old times. However, at the first time people found King Ship, there was no bad luck to come along. Thus, people in Shih Gang didn’t take this ship as something evil. Rather, they believed that this was a sign of luck. Some time later, they held King Ship ceremony to remember the luck that King Ship has brought to Shih Gang. After the King Ship was burn down, the main pole on the ship may fall into any direction. The direction it fell can be a reference of which direction to go for great fortune in the future. Wang Chao is the main part of King Ship ceremony. It includes many of the traditional rituals, such as greeting valuable trees to make a King Ship, apposed night drum, and the flag officer. In the end of the ceremony, followers work together to pull the ship into Zseng wen river and then burn it. This scene, of course always cause great amazing. Back to Top  

21. Shie-deng-kao (provide gratefulness to the light poles)
 There are several light poles which are called “the seven star light”, “the sky light” and “the five lights” that represent five gods. Five representatives of gods will start with putting down their light poles and then work together to take down the seven star light and the sky light. All the light poles will be placed steamed glutinous cake and steamed brown sugar buns in the poles. This ritual is a showing of gratefulness to the earth. The five representatives take home their own light poles. At this moment, Shie-deng-kao ritual is completed.

22. Send Matu back to her temple
 By the time of burning King Ship, the temple workers, the eight generals from Wa-cu and Golden lion station from Wu bamboo forest have returned to Sing An temple to prepare for sending Matu and Baosheng god back. Temple workers prepare shrines to greet Matu from Lu-er temple and Baosheng god from Qing-long temple into the shrines. The Matu in Sing An temple follows the troop as a host that accompanies the guests back to where they came from. The troop starts with drum, the eight general, the Golden stations, the Baosheng shrine and the Matu shrine. They stop at Qing-long temple first, and then to Lu-er temple. Back to Top  
 

   
 

Copyright (c) 2010 ShiGang Junior High School. All rights reserved.