Today is the day to pray for your misfortune to be dispelled according to Daoist beliefs. Today is the birthday of the god of water (水官) as it falls on the 15th day of the 10th month on the traditional Chinese calendar. In contrast to a human birthday, the god will grant you wishes on the day commemorating his holy birth.
As one of the oldest gods in Daoism, the water god has two brothers, the gods of heaven and earth. The god of heaven is in charge of giving blessings, the god of earth grants absolution to wrong doings, while the god of water dispels disaster and misfortune. Together, they form the Three Holy Emperors (三官大帝) of Taoist religion.
Called the Xiayuan Festival (下元节), believers visit their local City God Temple (城隍庙) or other Daoist temples to burn incense, pray and make offerings consisting of paper ingots, representing gold and silver, stuffed in red paper bags. Believers carefully label their names on each bag in case the god gets confused with such an influx of gifts, and forgets whose wish he should grant. The bags will be placed around the main statue in the temple for a rite of blessing performed by Daoist monks, and afterwards, burned for the gods to enjoy.
A visit to the City God Temple in Shanghai will reveal how alive this age-old tradition still is. So, why not join the crowd and make a wish to get rid of your misfortune? The god may hear you after all.
Just make sure the labels are all in proper order.
Photography by Jue Liu