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Phuket Vegetarian Festival “Kin Jae”

Early morning start at Phuket vegetarian Festival in PhuketOne of the most anticipated events on Phuket is the island’s annual Vegetarian Festival, or “Kin  Jae”, meaning in Thai - “kin” means eating and “jae” means only vegetables no meat. To understand the event and the origin of its rituals, which date back almost 200 years, team explores the history of the festival with the help of

Phuket's Vegetarian festival began in 1825 when Praya Jerm, governor of Thalang, moved the island's principal town from Ta Reua in Thalang District to Get-Hoe in Kathu District. At the time, Kathu was still covered by jungle and fever was prevalent. When an opera company traveled to the area from China to perform for the miners, the entire troop grew sick. In hopes of a miraculous recovery, they honored the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh, by keeping to a strict vegetarian diet.

The opera troop’s sickness then quickly disappeared, which astonished the people of Kathu. It appeared that the ritual of vegetarianism and the opera company’s ceremonies had been the cause, so the locals embraced the faith enthusiastically and the annual festival began. Starting the first evening of the ninth lunar month of the Chinese Calendar year, the festival continues until the ninth evening with the goal of bringing good luck to individuals as well as to the community.

Phuket Vegetarian festival, parade along the streets in Phuket TownMan walking on burning coal during 1 of the festival days in Phuket vegetarian festival

Shortly after the festival’s inception, a volunteer returned to Kansai, China, to bring back the sacred Hiao Ho-le or Hiao lan (incense smoke) and Lian Tui (name plaques) to Kathu, which are both considered gods. The volunteer also returned to Phuket (on the seventh night of the ninth month) with holy writings. Upon hearing of his arrival, the townspeople traveled to Bang Niao Pier to ensure the safe journey of the volunteer and his sacred cargo to Kathu, from which the event’s processions derive.

man having a instrument through his cheek during a parade in Phuket townman drinking milk from a babybottle in Phuket town during the Phuket Vegetarian festival

On the eve of the festival (the afternoon prior to the event’s commencement), a wooden pole called the Go Teng pole is erected at each temple to allow the gods to descend and be present for the ritual.  At midnight, nine lanterns are hung from each Go Teng pole, which are meant to signify the opening of the nine day event. During this late night ritual, two gods (Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Tae) are invited to preside over the ceremonies.

People praying during a temple evening in Phuket Town, ThailandTemple evening in Phuket town during the vegetarian festival

Rituals are held throughout this signature event, most notably shocking displays of self-torture are performed by “god mediums” to demonstrate their faith, ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the community. These feats of the Ma Song (“entranced horses”) are performed by devotees whom the gods enter during the fest. Their displays include bladed ladder climbing, bathing in hot oil and fire-walking. Participants also pierce their bodies with hooks and rods, and then carry weighted objects from the piercings.

Sitting praying on the beach in Phuket Town on the last evening of the vegetarian festivalA family surounded of live candles sitting on a beach in Phuket during the last evening of Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand

Throughout the festival fireworks and drums are sounded loudly as this, participants believe, drives away evil spirits. Devoted participants keep to a strict vegetarian diet for at least three of the nine day event to cleanse their mind, body and spirit. The Vegetarian Festival ends with merit making ceremonies at each local temple followed by a send-off of the gods on the last night with an impressively display of fireworks.


  1. Cleanliness of the body is important to observe during the festival
  2. Keep kitchen utensils clean and separate from utensils used by non-participants
  3. Wear white clothing during the festival in the spirit of cleanliness of the mind, body and spirit
  4. Behave with the utmost decorum both physically and mentally during the festival
  5. Eating meat of any kind during the festival is strictly prohibited
  6. Sex is not permitted during the nine day observation
  7. Do not bring or consume alcoholic beverages during the festival
  8. People in mourning should not attend the festival
  9. Pregnant ladies should not view any of the rituals
  10. Ladies who are menstruating should not attend the ritual

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