Haunting images of Keelung Ghost Festival

Keelung Ghost Festival caps off with lighting of water lanterns and spectacular pyrotechnic display

Fireworks over burning paper houses over Badouzi Harbor.

Fireworks over burning paper houses over Badouzi Harbor. (Taiwan News photo)

KEELUNG (Taiwan News) -- Friday night (Aug. 24) saw the climax of the Keelung Ghost Festival, including a parade with brightly lit floats and a spectacular burning of water lanterns in Badouzi Harbor (八斗子漁港).

The Keelung Ghost Festival is timed to coincide with the eve of Ghost Festival (鬼節) on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunisolar calendar, the halfway mark of Ghost Month (鬼月), which in this case was Aug. 25.

The first phase of the festival, which lasted until about 10:30 p.m., consisted of a boisterous parade with floats, marching bands, Taoist deities, beauties, colorful lanterns and souped up cars making a loop around the heart of Keelung City.

At around 11 p.m., the crowds then made their way to Badouzi Harbor where 15 clans lined up elaborately decorated paper homes and stuffed them with joss paper to pay homage to their ancestors. Taoists priests then began chanting and a spectacular fireworks display soon followed.

For the crescendo, the 15 mini-mansions were carried to the beach, set ablaze and guided into the ocean by squads of divers.

The 160-year-old Keelung Ghost Festival originated from a great number of deaths and unclaimed bodies caused by numerous international wars and armed fights among immigrants from southern China in the past that had taken place on the sea off the port city as well as inland.

The people of Keelung consider it important to treat and comfort the spirits of the numerous people who died in the tragic incidents, including foreigners. Therefore, the people of Keelung regard the ghost festival as significant as Lunar New Year. People from across Taiwan, as well as international tourists, flock to witness the annual extravaganza.

Video of fireworks being set off as water lanterns burn at sea.

Video of water lantern being set ablaze and launched in the ocean.