Participants at next month’s Ghost Festival, during which revelers burn joss paper, should follow environmentally friendly practices, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said yesterday.
The festival is part of the Taoist tradition and falls on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, or Sept. 5 this year.
It is one of the most important days of the month — known as the Ghost Month — which starts today.
Many households and businesses prepare a variety of offerings and burn ghost money to worship their ancestors and honor the dead, while many temples hold a series of ceremonies during the festival.
Lee and several business representatives yesterday visited Fengtien Temple (奉天宮) in Taipei’s Songshan District (松山) and burned incense.
The EPA has been promoting reducing the amount of incense and joss paper burned to improve air quality, but some temples considered it a ban, which led to about 100 religious groups staging what they called a religious carnival in Taipei on July 23.
Lee yesterday reiterated that the EPA aims to “reduce the burning of joss paper, fireworks and incense,” which is not different from the “one stick of incense per one burner” stance adopted by participants at the carnival.
Asked if “no burning” in religious practices is still the EPA’s ultimate goal, Lee said he will “respect the autonomy of temples.”
“Our temple members scarcely burn incense, but we do not stop visitors from doing so,” Fengtien Temple chairman Chen Po-chen (陳博貞) said, adding that the temple has set up a center for environmental protection.
The temple will hold a ceremony on Sept. 19, or the 29th of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, and expects more than 4,000 people to attend, Chen said.
“The sale of joss paper has been declining in the past few years, especially in urban areas,” RT-Mart International Ltd’s public relations official Tom Kuo (郭建志) said.
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