Ghost Festival

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Ghost Festival Ritual

The Ghost Festival, also called the Hungry Ghost Festival, is held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. Both Buddhists and Taoists celebrate this festival. The belief is that the gate to the underworld opens on the first day of the seventh lunar month. This month is regarded as the Ghost Month. All of the ghosts and spirits are released from hell. They are free to wander for the whole month.[1] People hold ceremonies to welcome the ghosts and spirits.

History[change | change source]

Traditionally, the Chinese call Ghost Festival "Chung-yuan Festival". Taoists believe it is the birthday of Yenlo Wang, the Demon King.[2] In the first half of the 6th century AD it became a Buddhist festival.[2] It has kept the same form since then. During the 20th century Republican and Communist governments saw this as a relic of the past.[3] The People’s Republic of China did not allow public religious celebrations including ghost festivals. But reforms in the 1970s allowed these festivals to return.[3]

Traditional Rituals[change | change source]

Ghost Festival in Ping Chou, Hong Kong

The Offering Ritual[change | change source]

The offering ritual is the most important part of the celebration. People arrange long tables in front of the houses and temples. This is for offering food to ghosts. At the height of the celebration priests toss food and candy in the air.[1] This is to feed the hungry ghosts. Children, and sometimes adults, scramble to gather the sweets.[1] People also offer the ghosts incense, paper clothes and "spirit money".

Salvation Lanterns[change | change source]

Salvation lanterns are used to guiding the wandering spirits and evil ghosts.[4] They are placed at the doors of homes and temples. The lanterns are set up on the last day of the end of the sixth lunar month. They are lit at midnight each night during Ghost month.[4] When the gates to the ghost world are closed, the lanterns are put away.[4]

Releasing Water Lanterns[change | change source]

Water lanterns are for the water ghosts who died from drowning. They illuminate the waterways to bring ghosts up to the celebrations. This allows the ghosts from the underworld and underwater are able to be in the same space peacefully.

Stealing the Lone Object[change | change source]

The stealing the lone object activity is called “Chiang-Gu”. This is celebrated in Yi-Lan. Competitors climb up a tall tower to reach a prize.[5] The game was banned for some time due to people falling and being injured or killed. In 1991 the game was brought back.[5]

Closing the gate of the underworld[change | change source]

On the first day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar the gates to the temples are closed.[6] This represents the end of the Ghost month. It is the time for the wandering souls to go back to the underworld.[6] A Taoist priest uses a sword to expel away the wandering soul. He shuts the gate of the underworld in the northeast position, and brings the event to a successful close.

Ghost festivals are celebrated across Asia. This includes China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan.[7] It is also celebrated by many of the 34 million Chinese who live overseas.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Carol Stepanchuk; Charles Choy Wong, Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts: Festivals of China (San Francisco: China Books & Periodicals, 1991), p. 72
  2. 2.0 2.1 Christian Roy, Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), p. 91
  3. 3.0 3.1 Buddhist Funeral Cultures of Southeast Asia and China, eds. Paul Williams; Patrice Ladwig (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 221
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Ghost Festival; Salvation Lanterns". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). 20 May 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2014.[permanent dead link]
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Chiang Ku -- Stealing the Lone Object". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). nd. Retrieved 14 October 2014.[permanent dead link]
  6. 6.0 6.1 ""Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"". Taiwan Tourism Bureau. 2013. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  7. Fiona Lee (31 August 2012). "Enter the Hungry Ghosts!". Better Chinese, LLC. Archived from the original on 5 August 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2014.

Other websites[change | change source]