Instead of the typical offerings made to ostensibly appease local ghosts, the Keelung Ghost Festival usually also includes offerings for the ghosts of French naval officers who perished in the area during the Sino-French War of the 1880s. Among those taking part in this year’s ceremony were actors playing the roles of important historical figures who were alive during the war, such as Empress Dowager Cixi, Qing Dynasty governor of Taiwan Liu Ming-chuan, and French admiral Amedee Courbet. The actors all carried offerings to the Sino-French War Memorial Park for the French soldiers’ spirits.
The Sino-French War, which lasted from 1884 to 1885, was a war fought between France and China for control over Tonkin, a northern region in Vietnam. On the island of Taiwan, however, the war consisted of the Keelung Campaign and the Battle of Tamsui. The more than 700 French naval officers that died in battles fought around Taiwan were initially buried at what is now officially designated a Sino-French War historical site in Keelung’s Zhongzheng District, which in Chinese is commonly called the French cemetery. However, their remains were gradually shipped to France for proper burials over the years, and now what was once a cemetery is merely a historical site.
The annual ghost festival held in Keelung has always included offerings not only to local ghosts, but also to the French soldiers that died here. The main religious ceremony for aiding ghosts in their journey from this world to the next is carried out here in accordance with past traditions, and includes using animals and food such as chicken, pork, fish, fruit and sticky rice as offerings. But out of consideration for the ghosts’ national backgrounds and cultural preferences, in Keelung’s case, the practitioners also offer them French bread and red wine.
1. appease v.
撫慰﹔滿足 (fu3 wei4; man3 zu2)
例: How can you ever possibly appease that enormous appetite of yours?
2. designate v.
指定 (zhi3 ding4)
例: The city has designated special lanes for bikes so that pedestrians have sidewalks all to themselves.
3. preference n.
偏好 (pian1 hao4)
例: It is my personal preference to eat hot dogs with mustard instead of ketchup.
Patrick Mansier, an official from the French Institute in Taipei representing the intitute’s director, offered a few words at the ceremony in sub-par Mandarin Chinese. He said he strongly felt the enthusiasm and philanthropy of the people in Keelung, and wished for Taiwan to remain safe and prosperous.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY TAIJING WU,
ADDITIONAL COMPILING BY KYLE JEFFCOAT)