Paper-burning rite in Meinong prays for academic excellence

Accompanied by a group of officials of the Kaohsiung City Government, Hakka Affairs Council (HAC) Minister Lee Yung-de attended a public ceremony at Guangshan Temple (廣善堂) in Kaohsiung’s Meinong District on Feb. 2, during which participants conducted a unique Hakka tradition called “respecting words (崇文敬字).”

As a Hakka region with a high degree of cultural richness, Meinong has inherited the ancient Hakka spirit of respecting words and cherishing paper, said Minister Lee. This ritual is performed annually on the ninth day of the first lunar month to present the Hakka people’s reverence for knowledge, he explained, adding that the esteemed event was selected by HAC as one of the 12 major Hakka festivals this year.

Reflecting the value of learning and education since olden times, the ceremonial custom has become part of Kaohsiung’s intangible cultural assets, stated Meinong District Chief Chung Ping-kuang (鍾炳光).

To help Meinong youngsters learn more about their heritage, the scale of the event was expanded this year to also include ceremonies held at Minongzhuang Jingzi Pavilion (瀰濃庄敬字亭), Shangzhuangzi Jingzi Pavilion (上庄仔敬字亭), Xiajiuliao Jingzi Pavilion (下九寮敬字亭), Longduzhuang Jingzi Pavilion (龍肚庄敬字亭), and Meinong Old Bridge.

The event begins with a parade procession involving the activity of collecting paper with words on it along the route and the practice of burning them to bless Meinong’s students. On the following day, ancient customs dictate that participants spread the burnt ash on the banks of Meinong River to wish for academic progress for all pupils in Meinong.

In his statement, Minister Lee concluded that the essence of the ritual conveys how the Hakka people attach great importance to education, especially for its development of moral and intellectual values. He further emphasized that the continuation of this tradition must rely on younger generations to maintain, and he remains confident that more youths will take part in this distinctive Hakka custom.