Culture Insider: China's Ghost Festival

  
Via:  Buzz of the Orient  •  2 months ago  •  22 comments

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Culture Insider: China's Ghost Festival
 

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Culture Insider: China's Ghost Festival

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A round moon is seen on the night of the Zhongyuan Festival in Jinnan city, Shanxi province, Aug 15, 2019. [Photo/IC]

The Zhongyuan Festival, also known as Ullambana Festival among Buddhists, falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, on Aug 22 this year.

Since ancient times, the Chinese have believed that the gates of hell open on that day and so people hold all kinds of activities to honor the ghosts. Therefore, the festival is also called the Ghost Festival.

There are two other festivals in China to honor departed spirits of ancestors: Qingming Festival (in spring) and the Chung Yeung Festival (in autumn). In both, living descendants pay homage to their deceased ancestors. Zhongyuan Festival is distinct from these, as the deceased are believed to visit the living.

Buddhist doctrine says that by offering articles on the festival day, deceased parents and relatives can be saved from bad situations in the after life. The Ullambana Festival of Buddhism has two meanings. One is to persuade people to provide for Buddhist monks. The other is to convince people to do more charitable deeds to release departed souls from sin and advocate family devotion.

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An Ullambana ceremony is held to rescue the deceased from bad situations at a temple in Hainan on the Ullambana Festival, August 10, 2014. [Photo/VCG]

The legend of Mulian Saves His Mother

The Ullambana Festival is related to the legend of Mulian Saves His Mother.

It is said that after going through innumerable trials and hardships in the nether world, Mulian finally saw his mother, only to find her being tortured by a group of hungry ghosts. Mulian wanted to send his mother rice and dishes with an earthen bowl, but the food was snatched by the hungry ghosts. Mulian had no choice but to ask Buddha for help.

Moved by his filial piety, Buddha presented Mulian with the Ullambana Sutra and told him to participate in an Ullambana Fast on July 15 of the lunar calendar. On that day, food of various kinds as well as five fruits -- peaches, plums, apricots, chestnuts and dates -- should be provided to all Buddhist monks.

Under the instruction of the Ullambana Sutra, Mulian filled the Ullambana vessel with fruits and vegetarian food to offer a sacrifice to his mother on July 15. His starving mother finally got the food. To show his gratitude to the Buddha, Mulian held an almsgiving activity every year to release the hungry ghosts from the disaster of being hanged by their feet.

The day has become a festival to honor departed ancestors, relatives and friends.

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Lanterns float along the river to mark the Zhongyuan Festival, also known as the Ghost Festival. [Photo/IC]

Floating water lantern

Among the various folk customs of the Zhongyuan Festival, the floating water lantern is the grandest. The water lantern, also called lotus lantern, is usually made by pasting paper into a lotus shape. Then a lamp or candle is placed inside. On the night of the Zhongyuan Festival, lanterns are released into rivers or lakes.

People think that they should hang out lanterns to celebrate the ghosts. As human beings and land belong to  yang , which means positive, so ghosts and water belong to  yin , which means negative. The dark and mysterious underworld usually reminds people of the gloomy sepulchral hell where the ghosts suffer. So lanterns are floated on the waters.

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A citizen burns paper "money" to honor the deceased during China's Zhongyuan Festival in Yichang city, Hubei province, Sept 1, 2020. [Photo/IC]

Burning paper "money"

It is said in folklore that departed ancestors will be released by Yama for half a month. As a result, there is a custom to welcome ancestors at the beginning of July and send them off on July 15. When sending off the spirits, people will burn a lot of paper "money" so ancestors can spend it in the nether world. They will also insert some paper "money" into an envelope on which the user's name has been written. The envelope will be burnt for sacrifice.

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A sea sacrificial ceremony is held in Qionghai of Hainan province during Zhongyuan Festival to pray for good fortune, August 9, 2014. [Photo by Meng Zhongde/Asianewsphoto]

Sending goat

A popular folk custom during the festival requires that a grandfather or uncle on the mother's side send a live goat to his grandson or nephew. Legend has it that the custom has something to do with the myth of Chenxiang Saving His Mother from the Mountain. The custom has gradually evolved into sending a pair of flour goats.

The festival is quite popular among Chinese and is celebrated not only on the Chinese mainland, but also in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Besides, it has spread to and is celebrated in Thailand, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

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A folk custom activity is held to mark the Zhongyuan Festival at Xiangshan county, Ningbo city, Zhejiang province, Aug 21, 2013. [Photo/IC]

Taboos

According to ancient Chinese customs, there are some activities that should be avoided during the Zhongyuan Festival to stop the evil spirits from hurting you.

1. Don't hang wet clothes at night

Hanging wet clothes at night will easily attract spirits and is like setting a trap to capture ghosts.

2. Don't sleep with your hair untied

During the Zhongyuan Festival, there are ghosts hanging around everywhere, and if your hair is disheveled and loose, the ghosts will consider you as one of their league members.

3. Don't celebrate birthday at night.

If you celebrate birthday at night, you may encounter "something else" singing the birthday song with you. So it's better to celebrate at daytime.

4. Don't take photos at night

You may capture spirits when taking photos at night, and then they will follow you home.

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A girl in a "haunted house" in China. [Photo/IC]

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BUZZ NOTE: Comments are subject to the Discovery Group's RED RULES , which may be accessed by clicking on the Discovery Group avatar at the top right of this page.


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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    2 months ago

It is also called the Spirit Festival, and will be celebrated in my home, as my wife and her family are Buddhists.  I consider myself very lucky to have so broadened my horizons by living here and learning much about an ancient and totally different culture from that of my past - all so fascinating, the adventure of my life.

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Principal
1.1  Raven Wing  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    2 months ago
I consider myself very lucky to have so broadened my horizons by living here and learning much about an ancient and totally different culture from that of my past - all so fascinating, the adventure of my life.

A very interesting celebration and custom. And we here on NT are very lucky that you share your knowledge with us, as we get a chance to learn such events as well.

Thank you!

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Raven Wing @1.1    2 months ago

One member has already sent me a PN telling me that nobody gives a shit about China so I'm wasting my time.

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Principal
1.1.2  Raven Wing  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.1.1    2 months ago

Screw 'em...they don't speak for me. They are just all mouth and no brains. They obviously think they are of immense importance here that they can speak for anyone else. But, others besides me may not agree with their idea of all self importance.

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
1.1.3  shona1  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.1.1    2 months ago

Anoon buzz.. Agree totally with what Raven said..

What is that saying... ignorance is bliss...heaven forbid they may learn something about another country...

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    2 months ago

Maybe the site's witches and warlocks might give a damn.

 
 
 
pat wilson
Professor Guide
2.1  pat wilson  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    2 months ago

I ordered your book recommendation "Ghost Bride". Haven't gotten to it yet.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  pat wilson @2.1    2 months ago

Please let me know your opinion of it once you've read it.  

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
2.2  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    2 months ago

I'm not actually a Warlock (Although rumour has it that I used to POOTV.)

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.2.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @2.2    2 months ago

POOTV ???

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
2.2.2  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.2.1    2 months ago

POOTV ???

"Play One On TV"

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.2.3  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @2.2.2    2 months ago

LOL

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
2.2.4  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.2.3    2 months ago

In the "early daze" of the Internet, because communication was by typing rather than speaking, people were looking for ways to type less. So they developed shortcuts like the "TLA" ("Three Letter Acronym").  There were many, but only a few seemed to survived to this day-- perhaps the best known being LOL. Maybe other well known ones are IMO ("in my opinion"), BTW ("by the way"),, and WTF.er"

Later long ones came into use. For example "INALB" (I'm not a lawyer but...), IMHO ("in my humble opinion), LMAO ("Laughing my ass off)...and even ROFL ("Rolling on the floor laughing"). and even ROFLMAO ("Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off)>

INALB was popular... and then (more for the humor of it than for increased clarity): INALBIPOOTV! (I'm not a lawyer but I play one on TV"!). I think that BIPOOTV part was due in part to one of the most popular (at the time) shows on TV ("called LA LAW"). That, along with "Miami Vice" were 2 of my favourite TV shows of the time.

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
2.2.5  Krishna  replied to  Krishna @2.2.4    2 months ago

I think that BIPOOTV part was due in part to one of the most popular (at the time) shows on TV ("called LA LAW")

From Wikipedia:

L.A. Law   was an American   legal drama   television series that ran for eight seasons on   NBC , from September 15, 1986 to May 19, 1994. [1]

Created by   Steven Bochco   and   Terry Louise Fisher , [2]   it contained many of Bochco's trademark features, including an   ensemble cast , large number of parallel storylines, social drama, and off-the-wall humor. [3]   It reflected the social and cultural ideologies of the 1980s and early 1990s, and many of the cases featured on the show dealt with hot-button issues such as   capital punishment ,   abortion ,   racism ,   homophobia ,   sexual harassment ,   HIV/AIDS , and   domestic violence . [4] [5] [6]   The series often also reflected social tensions between the wealthy senior lawyer protagonists and their less well-paid junior staff.

In addition to its main cast,   L.A. Law   was also well known for featuring then relatively unknown actors and actresses in guest starring roles, who later (Cont'd HERE)

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
2.2.6  Krishna  replied to  Krishna @2.2.5    2 months ago

Buzz: this is on YouTube but you might be able to find it on a Chinese video site:

LA LAW Opening Theme

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.2.7  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @2.2.4    2 months ago

The first time someone sent me an email with LOL on it I sent a return mail saying "Lots of Love to you too."  I guess I wasn't really up on acronyms.  But now kids use short forms for text messages, like "CUL8r".

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
3  Ender    2 months ago

Love the lanterns on the water.

We use to send off the flying ones once in a while. Watch them drift away.

They are now illegal in some places. I guess sending flame into the air...

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Ender @3    2 months ago

Yes, lanterns that rise in the sky are customary during Lantern Festival, which is celebrated 15 days after Chinese New Year.  The ones with lit candles inside have been banned here in many places because they have lit fires when they fall back to land, so now people use mini-battery-powered light bulbs, and heat the air in the lanterns with portable heat-blowers.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    2 months ago

I do pity those whose only connection to culture is the culture of politics, and the sport of political division.  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
4.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4    2 months ago

why do you say people dont care about culture because they dont comment on your china articles as much as you would like? 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.1.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @4.1    2 months ago

I just have to follow most of what's posted by all the members here.  At least YOU have varied interests, not limited to politics.  AND my comment did not criticize anyone for NOT liking what I post, it was an observation about what MOST members post.  

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
4.1.2  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.1.1    2 months ago
it was an observation about what MOST members post.

Good observation!

 
 
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