Indonesian people’s view of soul, taboo of ghosts and customs and the Mid-Year Festival

  Indonesia is a multi-ethnic, polytheistic, multi-religious country. The six officially recognized religions are Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Indonesia has a vast territory, and almost every tribe in each region has its own concept of soul. Obviously, there are still primitive religions in Indonesia, that is, “animism”. The primitive religion of Indonesia is represented by elf worship, totem worship, ancestor worship and god worship. This also proves that the local people in Indonesia have had the so-called concept of soul since ancient times. Different regions and tribes in Indonesia have different forms of belief. Some tribes worship the totem as the protector of a tribe or clan, while others worship the kris short sword. They also hold worship services on set days. This view of the soul subconsciously penetrates and affects the daily life of the Indonesian people. For example, many people in Indonesia believe that when a person is asleep, the soul will leave the body and wander outside. Therefore, Indonesians are taboo to wake up a sleeping person suddenly, which will make the soul too late to return to the body and cause illness or even death. In addition, the Badak people also have a song about the scene after death:
  life becomes soul,
  hair becomes stalk,
  body becomes mud,
  bones become gravel,
  blood becomes running water, and
  breath becomes wind.
  It can be seen that the spiritual belief has penetrated into the lives of Indonesians. It is certain that many Indonesian people are still exposed to activities related to the worship of ghosts and spirits in their daily lives, such as exorcising ghosts, curing diseases, divination, asking gods and other activities, especially in remote villages. . The so-called witch doctors, witches, and gods are not difficult to find in various regions of Indonesia. Even so, Indonesia doesn’t have a specific holiday for ghosts like the Chinese New Year’s Day. Scholars believe that this is because the tribes and ethnic groups in Indonesia are diverse and diverse, and their distribution is very wide. There are aboriginal tribes in almost every region, and each tribe has different belief patterns and objects of worship. This makes it impossible for the whole of Indonesia to have a specific ghost festival like the Mid-Autumn Festival or Halloween.
  Take Perang Ketupat, an annual ghost exorcism ritual unique to the Malays of Bangka Island, which is similar to the Mid-Year Festival of the local Chinese. The difference between the two is that in order to have peace and not be disturbed by ghosts and ghosts during the Chinese Mid-Yuan Festival, sacrifices are made, saved, and respected. The Malays of Bangka Island use rice balls to fight ghosts and drive them away. This also proves the cultural similarity between the Chinese and Malays in Bangka Island. Although the “fighting rice ball” is carried out in accordance with Islamic ordinances, related books record: this ceremony has a strong multi-racial and multi-religious color, which absorbs Chinese Confucianism and Buddhism, Hinduism and Malay Islam Elements. In addition, the Malays of Bangka Island have a similar ritual to drive out water ghosts called “Naber Laut” (Naber Laut). This ceremony is usually held after the “Fighting Rice Balls”, and its purpose is also to exorcise evil spirits and prevent water ghosts from haunting the world. From the “Catch the Water Ghosts” ceremony, we can also find that it actually combines the ritual expressions of Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism. The most obvious is the music and dance parts of the ceremony, which clearly blend Islamic, Chinese and Hindu features. In addition, this event will also have the participation of local Chinese. At this time, martial arts performances and lion and dragon dances are usually staged.
  Activities related to ghosts abound in Indonesia. This also proves that the local people’s view of the soul is deeply ingrained. It can even be said that in many details of daily life, many Indonesians still retain a lot of superstition. For example, the local people in Indonesia believe that the human soul is hidden in the human head. Therefore, Indonesians are taboo against strangers touching the head of a child, for fear that their soul will be taken away. Primitive superstitions and taboos like this can be found everywhere on Bangka Island.
  The so-called concept of soul existed in the Han nationality a long time ago. Everyone has a trembling attitude towards the so-called ghosts, fearing that if they accidentally offend these ghosts, they will work in secret and harm human beings. But what we must understand is that superstition, taboo and witchcraft are not only the soil of traditional festivals, but also the components of the content of traditional festivals. It can be seen that taboo is an inseparable part of traditional festivals. Taboos about ghost festivals can be heard everywhere in the folk. Mr. Zhong Jingwen wrote in “Introduction to Folklore”: “In order to prevent the ghosts from harming people, the ancients came up with various methods: either respectfully and far away; or retreat and avoid them; or, drive them away. In the wilderness on July 15th Setting off river lanterns, burning incense and dissolving paper, and setting up food and porridge by the water are all in order to recommend all kinds of lonely and wild ghosts, so that they can return to their homes instead of being harsh.” The taboo against ghosts has existed since ancient times, and even it has been passed down to the present. It doesn’t seem to be more sloppy than before.
  Today, the Chinese in Bangka Island are still cautious and nervous every July in the lunar calendar. Everyone feels that this month is a time when many ghosts linger, whether in the air, on land or in the water. The older generation will keep telling the children at home not to do this or that. The most common is that everyone thinks that it is best not to travel long distances during the month of July, and it is not appropriate to go to the seaside for vacations or outdoor activities such as sightseeing in the mountains and water. Be a ghost. During this month, you must not climb trees and climb high, and you must not return late. It is best to go home and rest before evening. In addition, during this month, the Chinese in Bangka Island are also forbidden to break ground and repair houses. Most people will not plan a wedding within this month. Perhaps this is not just a taboo observed by the Chinese on Bangka Island, it is a taboo well known to Chinese everywhere. Fang Xuejia wrote in “Hakka Folklore”: “July is the month of ghosts, no matter if you get married, don’t go far, don’t move, don’t build a house, don’t build a beam, don’t travel at night, don’t open a business, don’t make an alliance, etc.” The taboos described in this book are quite in line with the taboo customs of Bangka Island. It is also mentioned in the book that women are not allowed to approach when the Pudushi shed is built, otherwise it will collapse. According to the author’s investigation on Bangka Island, the local Hakka people do not have this taboo. The interviewees revealed that the construction of the shed is a physical task, and it is mostly done by men, and women will not intervene.
  The Chinese in Bangka also have taboos on offerings for Pudu sacrifices. In some temples that still retain the ritual of robbing orphaning, many Chinese are reluctant to participate. Because everyone felt that grabbing Shi Gu would have bad luck if he didn’t grab any offerings. Therefore, in Bangka Island, it can be seen that many local Malays participated in the robbing ceremony. If you really didn’t grab any offerings, you must at least get the Pudu Banner or the Ullambana. In this way, those who participate in the robbery will not have bad luck. Regarding the taboos of Pudu offerings, there are also relevant records in “Hakka Folklore”: “It is said that the offerings in Pudu offerings are strictly forbidden to be eaten arbitrarily, otherwise the body will fester.” But with the development of the times, many young people have begun to put These taboos are forgotten. After all, some taboos may no longer conform to the modern way of life. It is hard to imagine that in modern times, people would delay their business trips because of these oral taboos, or let fishermen not go to sea for a month to make a living, etc. In the next few years, perhaps these taboos have really been ignored by people, and perhaps more young people will regard these taboos as superstitious feudal relics. In the future, how many people will be able to face up to these taboos as the soil and hotbed of festival customs? Perhaps we can only seek answers in the passage of time.

  The Indonesian aborigines of Bangka Island are mainly Malay and Badak, while the local Chinese are mainly Hakka. To live together for a long time on such an island, to a certain extent, there must be cultural fusion or communication between two different cultures. Many scholars agree that there are still many problems in the social relationship between Chinese Indonesians and local people, or that the two have not been perfectly integrated. The researchers believe one of the reasons is religious. It is introduced in “Indonesia Culture and Society”: “In history and living habits, many Chinese people have a estrangement from Islam…” In addition, many people believe that Indonesian Chinese are often accustomed to isolation, exclusive lifestyles and living environment. This was also influenced by the class division of various groups in Indonesian society by the early Dutch colonial government. The Chinese at that time were in a special social position, which was a legacy of the provocative policy of the Dutch colonial government. Today in various regions of Indonesia, we will still find that there are many Chinese and local people whose relationship is always tense. Not so on Bangka Island. Even though the cultural integration today is far from being as perfect as it was during the Sukarno period, the cultural integration of the Chinese and Malays in Bangka Island is relatively ongoing to a considerable extent. If we look at the old photos of the local Chinese, it is not difficult to find that the so-called cultural integration in Bangka Island society has been carried out perfectly from the early days. This is manifested in the fact that the old aunts at that time (the Hakka people on Bangka Island are collectively referred to as older Chinese women) all wore Malay-style traditional clothing-Nyonya clothing, and the diet also absorbed the local Malay “hand pilaf”. habit. The most obvious is the integration of language, the local Chinese can almost communicate in Malay.
  In terms of festival customs, not only the Chinese have accepted the local influence, but many festival customs of the Malays have also been influenced by the Chinese. In addition, the acceptance of local Malays to foreign cultures has further promoted the cultural integration of Chinese and Malays, promoted the friendly relationship between the two, and enhanced the vitality of the folk customs of the two ethnic groups. Also because of the tolerance of the local Malays, even under the assimilation policy of the Suharto regime, the Chinese were able to retain traditional festivals and customs. Of course, on the other hand, the Chinese children’s own struggles, struggles and efforts have also made a way out for these traditional festivals and customs. Therefore, the Mid-Year Festival customs of Bangka Island can be completely preserved to this day.
  The relevant customs of the local Malays also testify to the degree of cultural integration between the Chinese and the Malays. On the other hand, when we look at the Mid-Year Festival, the legacy of Sino-Yuan Energy on Bangka Island must be inseparable from cultural integration. The horizontal expansion of folk culture includes the judgment, absorption (or rejection), digestion and processing of the value orientation of foreign folk culture. Only after proper adaptation and acceptance of some local elements can the Zhongyuan Festival be nationalized, accepted and survived by the local people.
  Specific to the Zhongyuan sacrificial ceremony, most of the sacrifices used in every sacrificial ceremony of the Chinese are locally sourced. According to literature records, apart from some traditional Hakka pastries, there are very few authentic “Chinese dishes” on the altar today. Most Chinese absorb and use all local materials as sacrifices. From the perspective of festival participation, from ancient times to the present, most of the people who come to the temple to watch the Mid-Yuan Festival are local Malays. Even under the repression of the Suharto regime, the local Malays still view the Chinese holiday customs friendly. Those bans are only provisions in the government’s constitution, and they do not represent the general public’s attitude towards Chinese customs. In addition, the offerings of Yuan Pudu in almost all temples on Bangka Island are generally used to distribute to the surrounding poor. This practice has always been affirmed and appreciated by the local government and people from all walks of life. Not only that, during the Mid-Yuan Festival, many people will hold a night market at the entrance of the temple square, which is very lively. This also brings a lot of economic benefits to the local people.
  In addition to the Chinese New Year Festival, the friendly relationship between the local people and the Chinese is also reflected in other festivals. According to relevant interview records, the Chinese and Malays have established friendly relations since ancient times. The older generation told us that in the past, the Chinese workers and the local Malays all worked together in the tin mines. Thus a friendly relationship was established between them. Whenever Eid al-Fitr, they visit Malay families to congratulate them. Correspondingly, every Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Cai), the Malays will come to visit the Chinese homes. It can be seen that Chinese festivals not only play a very important role in the local area. Festivals can be described as a bridge between two peoples to understand each other’s culture.
  Scholars believe that celebrating the Mid-Year Festival like Bangka Island deserves recognition. Because it can be said that it has narrowed the distance between the Chinese and the Malays. In this kind of atmosphere, the customs of the Mid-Autumn Festival can be sure that it will definitely play a positive and optimistic role in the friendly and stable development of the local society. In this way, the Mid-Autumn Festival also has a non-negligible contribution to the cultural communication between the Chinese and Malays. Excluding the superstitious elements of festivals, the author believes that the existence of the customs of the Mid-Yuan Festival is worthy of affirmation. Judging by today’s social customs, the author is optimistic about the future inheritance and development trend of Mid-Yuan Festival customs in Bangka Island.

  Distinguished from the time axis, the traditional customs and customs spread overseas have experienced a life process of strengthening-weakening-re-strengthening. Looking at the migration of folk culture in ancient and modern China and abroad, folk culture that has left its place of origin can still be like a duck to water in a foreign country, which must have its reason for survival. The traditional Chinese folk culture spread across the sea to Indonesia, including the Mid-Yuan Festival customs, can only be preserved after a long process of adaptation. When the Chinese went to Nanyang, a large number of Chinese ancestors took root in Indonesia. At this time, folk culture became a tool to unite their own groups. The folk culture of this period showed tenacious vitality in the Chinese community. In the middle of the 20th century, with the development of the times, traditional culture was impacted by the strong Western culture and suppressed by the Indonesian government’s assimilation policy. At this time, the Chinese folk culture fell to the lowest point of life. However, with the rise of ethnic movements, the continuous advancement of globalization and informatization, and the improvement of the status of the global Chinese, these have enhanced their sense of identity with their own national culture. This also allowed folk culture to enter a period of renaissance.
  Starting from the folklore itself, for the folklore spread overseas, the Mid-Autumn Festival has played a huge cohesive role for the local Chinese. For the local Chinese, the reservation of the Mid-Autumn Festival is undoubtedly an important medium to strengthen the folk identity and the sense of national belonging. Therefore, the preservation of the Mid-Autumn Festival is of great significance to the local Chinese.
  Nowadays, whenever the Chinese New Year is celebrated, whether it is on Bangka Island in Indonesia or in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, there is a celebration of a certain scale. After investigation, the author found that the Mid-Yuan Festival customs in various places are inseparable from the original, and the essence of the festival is inseparable from the content of saving the dead and filial piety. It’s just that the details of the sacrifices or supernatural ceremonies are slightly different from place to place. For example, Zhongyuan Private Pudu on Bangka Island is mainly for ancestors, which is the characteristic of Zhongyuan Pudu on Bangka Island. Another example is Singapore’s Zhongyuan Pudu, which is popular in Taiwan, the Pudu Opera in Hong Kong’s Dajiangpo Village is mainly Chaozhou Opera, the Buddhist Obon Festival in Malaysia, the grand occasion of Gongpu in Malacca, and the “Worship on the Street” in Penang, etc. All are the characteristics of Zhongyuan Purdue in various places. Although the rituals are similar in form, in the final analysis, the Zhongyuan Purdus in various places have similarities and deeds, that is, they continue to inherit the Zhongyuan festivals and customs that have traces of thousands of years of history.
  Specific to the friendly relations between the people of China and Indonesia and the cross-cultural communication between the two countries, the Mid-Autumn Festival also plays a pivotal role. The essence of the Mid-Autumn Festival is the festival of ghosts, which proves that the Chinese recognize the existence of spirits and ghosts. The deep-rooted concept of ghosts and gods is a characteristic shared by the Chinese and the local Malays. This is also very consistent with the first of the five principles of Indonesia’s founding – belief in Shinto. Having the same values ​​and mindset of looking at things will undoubtedly further promote the friendly relations between the two peoples.