Phuket Vegetarian Festival aka Nine Emperor Gods Festival takes place in Phuket Island every year and becomes more and more popular also for tourists. It’s also celebrated in may other parts of South Asia.

Origin of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Street Procession Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Photo by Jamie @ Nine Emperor Gods Festival or Vegetarian Festival on Phuket island began in back in 1825. At that time the governor of Thalang District moved the principal town from Ta Reua in Thalang District to Kathu District,  where tin mines were flourished with mass influx of the Chinese migrants mainly “Hokkien” or Fujian origin. Kathu area was then still covered by jungle and epidemics were common. Along with the dreams of a better life, they also brought along their belief and  religion for protection. According to a widely accepted Chinese tradition, a Chinese opera troupe was hired from China to perform in Kathu, Phuket Island.

While the Chinese Opera Troupe was in Kathu, Phuket, an unnamed disease was spreading and many died. The Chinese Opera performers also fell sick. They led the locals in Kathu to fast and pay homage to the Jade Emperor God and the Nine Emperor Gods as they used to do during the first to the ninth of the ninth Chinese lunar month when they were in China. Consequently, the epidemic was cured. Later on, an envoy was sent back to Kansai in China in order to perform a ritual to symbolically invite the Nine Emperor Gods from a shrine in China to Phuket Island.

Piercing - Phuket Vegetarian Festival Street Procession (Photo by Jamie @ envoy brought back the sacred ash in urn, scripture, carved wooden plaque of the Palace of the North Star. He returned on the seventh night of the ninth lunar month, and the locals went in a procession to Bang Liao Pier to welcome him and the legend here in Phuket.
The urn with sacred ashes since then has been mixed with those of the following year and so on until the present day to symbolise infinity through the continuity from the past to the present and passes the belief to the future generations. It is believed that the urn with sacred ash is spiritualist by the presence of the Nine Emperor Gods.
The Chinese descendants (Baba) became an integral constituent of contemporary Thai society. It is, in fact, a migrant festival of renewal and purification, to cleanse the community and worshippers for their sins, to safeguard their good fortunes and to safeguard their good fortunes and to ward off calamities – migration, purification and good fortunes. It is also a rejuvenated community after rituals and fasting to achieve the 3 personified fortunes of human needs – success, prosperity and longevity.

Food Offerings - Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Photo by Jamie @ Vegetarian Festival is filled with cosmic symbolism. You can observe from the first step when entering the compound of the shrine with the Chinese inscriptions on the top of the gate. The Chinese migrants commemorated the North Star or Polaris that always points to the North and a leading star for sojourners to a better place with better life. Moreover, the Big Bear tells seasons & time. The life of the ancient Chinese were closely related with the Polaris & Big Bear in terms of travelling and agriculture.

The Rituals of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

  • The Preliminary Ritual
  • Demarcation & Consecration Ritual
  • Heavenly Warrior-Releasing Ritual
  • Tall Lantern Pole Raising
  • Jade Emperor God Invitation
  • Nine Emperor Gods Invitation Ritual
  • Heavenly Warriors Food-Offering Ritual
  • Worshipping Ritual for the Deceased Devotees
  • Chanting
  • Seven Stars Propitiation Ritual
  • The Street Procession
  • The Fire Walking Ritual
  • The Bladed Ladder Climbing Ritual
  • The Ceremonial Bridge Crossing Ritual
  • The Farewell Ritual
  • Lantern Pole Lowering Ritual
  • Feast ready for communal services

The Five Buddhist Precepts

Body cleansing to acquire supernatural power by testing one’s power of endurance, self-discipline and penance during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.

  1. Abstain from killing living things. (Abstain from eating meat product.)
  2. Abstain from stealing.
  3. Abstain from sexual behavior.
  4. Abstain from telling lie.
  5. Abstain from alcoholic drinks.

Taboos during the 9 days of the Vegetarian festival

  1. Abstain from gambling.
  2. Abstain from bedecking jewelry and leather goods.
  3. Avoid wearing other colors of attire to enter the principle hall of the shrine, except white attire.
  4. Mourner, woman in menstruation and pregnancy should avoid participating in any kind of rituals.
  5. Kitchen utensils and containers should be kept solely for vegetarian during the festival.

The Shrines of Phuket

  1. Kathu Shrine
  2. Jui Tui Shrine
  3. Bang Liao Shrine
  4. Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine (Sam Kong)
  5. Sapam Shrine
  6. Gim Su Ong Shrine (Ban Don)
  7. Jong Nghi Tong (Ton Sai Water Fall)
  8. Jeng Ong Shrine
  9. Sheng Leng Tong (Ban Muang Mai)
  10. Sui Boon Tong Shrine
  11. Sam Sae Su Hud Shrine
  12. Bangkoo Shrine
  13. Tai Houd Shrine (Surin Beach)
  14. Tae Gun Shrine (Baan Nabon)
  15. Tae Gun Tai Tae Shrine (Pasak)
  16. Tai Seng Pud Jor Shrine (Chalong)
  17. Bu Seng Tong Shrine (Baan Kien)
  18. Yok Ke Keng Shrine
  19. Leng Ho Bel Shrine (Mai Khao)
  20. Cherng Thalay Shrine
  21. Ngor Hian Tae Shrine (Baan Kien)
  22. Baan Tha Rue Shrine
  23. Hai Yiang Geng Shrine
  24. Choor Su Gong Naka Shrine

Links for more information about this Festival