Chinese Ghost Festival

Introduction

The Ghost Festival (also known as Zhongyuan Festival by Taoists or Yu Lan Pen Festival by Buddhists) is the day to pay respects to the deceased by offering sacrifices.

In Chinese culture, it is thought that all ghosts will come out from the hell on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, so the day is called the Ghost Day and the seventh lunar month is the Ghost Month.

Difference between Ghost Festival and Qingming Festival
In China, people also have the custom of offering sacrifices to the deceased on the Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, and the Double Ninth Festival. But different from these festivals, the Ghost Festival is the day that all ghosts will come out to visit the livings. Also, people only offer sacrifices to their ancestors and relatives on the above festivals, while during the Ghost Festival, besides ancestors and relatives, people will offer sacrifices to all the ghosts or spirits. So, it's also called the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Hungry Ghost Festival is regarded as the most important one among all the festivals that offering sacrifices the deceased.

 

History and Legend about Hungry Ghost Festival
About the history and legends of the ghost festival, there are mainly three ones. The most popular one  is Mulian Rescues His Mother. Click to get to know What's the story behind the Hungry Ghost Festival?

Fast Facts about Ghost Festival:

Chinese Name: 中元节Zhōngyuán Jié
Alternative Names: Hungry Ghost Festival, Zhongyuan Festival, Yu Lan Pen Festival
Date: July.15th (Chinese Lunar Calendar)
Festival Type: Traditional Chinese Festival
Observed by: Buddhists, Taoists, Chinese folk religion believers
Traditions and Customs: Offering sacrifices to ancestors and all the deceased, Burning joss paper, Chanting of scriptures, Floating lotus flower-shaped lanterns

Date of Ghost Festival

The Ghost Festival falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. In Gregorian calendar, it usually falls on August or September. The ghost month refers to the 7th lunar month. The following chart shows the exact date for the festival and the ghost month durations from 2018 to 2021:
Year Date of Ghost Festival Ghost Month
2018 August 25th August 11th - September 9th
2019 August 15th August 1st - August 29th
2020 September 2nd August 19th - September 16th
2021 August 22nd August 8th - September 6th

Customs

In China, people think on the Ghost month, the gate of hell will open to allow the ghosts and spirits go back to the living world. During the month, those have families will visit their families and those alone will roam on the street to seek food and entertainment.

Family members usually offer sacrifice to their deceased ancestors and relatives during the month and on the Ghost day. They are honored with delicious food three times a day on a table. The family’s ancestral tablets and photographs will be put on the table with incense burning near them. People also pay tribute to those unknown wandering ghosts with food and burn joss paper to please the ghosts on the 15th (some places on the 14th) day of the 7th lunar month to avoid the harm by them.

Buddhists and Taoists usually perform ceremonies on the day to help the ghosts ease the sufferings. They will set altars for them and chant scriptures. Monks often throw rice or some small foods into the air to distribute them to the ghosts.

On the evening of the Ghost day, people also make lanterns and float them on the river to help their relatives find their way back to home. The lanterns are usually lotus flower-shaped with light or candles. Some people also write their ancestors’ name on the lanterns.

 

Taboos

As the ghosts and the suffering spirits will come out from the hell to visit their homes during the 7th lunar month (the ghost month), many things should be avoided during this month including the ghost day.

1. Don't stroll at night.
2. Don't swimming. It is said that the drowned evil ghost might try to drown you in order to find victims for them to rebirth.
3. As the month is considered to be inauspicious, don't move to new houses, start new businesses or marry.
4. Don't hang clothes outside at night.
5. Do not pick up coins or money found on the street and never bring it home.
6. Do not step on or kick the offerings by the roadside. If you step by accident, you should apologize aloud to make it alright.
7. Do not wear red because ghosts are attracted to red.
8. Don't sing and whistle as these may attract ghosts.
9. Keep away from the walls as it is believed that ghosts like sticking to walls.
10. If you are born during the ghost month, avoid celebrating your birthday at night. It's better to celebrate during the daytime.

More Traditional Chinese Festivals:

Chinese Spring Festival      Laba Festival      Lantern Festival      Dragon Heads-raising Day      Qingming Festival      Double Seventh Festival       Dragon Boat Festival         Mid-Autumn Festival      The Double Ninth Festival      Winter Solstice

Chinese Calendar

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
26
十六/16
27
十七/17
28
十八/18
29
十九/19
30
二十/20
31
廿一/21
1
廿二/22
2
廿三/23
3
廿四/24
4
廿五/25
5
廿六/26
6
廿七/27
7
廿八/28
8
廿九/29
9
三十/30
八月 (Aug)
10
初一/1
11
初二/2
12
初三/3
13
初四/4
14
初五/5
15
初六/6
16
初七/7
17
初八/8
18
初九/9
19
初十/10
20
十一/11
21
十二/12
22
十三/13
23
十四/14
24
十五/15
25
十六/16
26
十七/17
27
十八/18
28
十九/19
29
二十/20
30
廿一/21
1
廿二/22
2
廿三/23
3
廿四/24
4
廿五/25
5
廿六/26
6
廿七/27

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