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They roam around looking for peculiar entertainment, and many fearful Chinese try to avoid swimming or being alone at night lest an enemy ghost comes after them. The ghosts attack their enemies, and they might be angry or malicious in general. So the Chinese have certain traditions about what to do about the situation on the first day, the 14th or 15th for the Hungry Ghost Festival, and the last day of the special month. One the first day of the month, people burn make-believe paper money outside their homes or businesses, along the sides of roads, or in fields. Sometimes, they go to temples for this task.

On a trip to China during this time, you'll probably see people occupied with this activity or find the ghost money on the ground with ashes and remains. They want to give the ghosts the money they need during their special month. People also light incense and may make sacrifices of food to worship the hungry unhappy ghosts. People trust that the ghosts won't do something terrible to them or curse them after eating their sacrifices and while holding their money. They put up red painted paper lanterns everywhere including business and residential areas.

Understanding the rituals of the Hungry Ghost Festival

There are street ceremonies, market ceremonies, and temple ceremonies. During street and market ceremonies, people gather at the streets and markets to celebrate the festival. At temple ceremonies, monks in temples organize festive activities.


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Many believe it is important to appease the ghosts to avoid spiritual attack. The last day of the seventh lunar month is marked with a special festival too. This is the day that the gates of hell are closed up again. People celebrate and observe this day in various ways.

Why Is The Hungry Ghost Festival Celebrated In August? | Ancient Pages

Many burn more paper money and clothing so that the ghosts can use these things in their hell society. The pictures and tablets of ancestors may be put away back on the shelves or hung back on the walls where they were before.


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In order to drive the ghosts away, Taoist monks chant to make them leave. The ghosts are thought to hate the sound, and therefore scream and wail. Many families float river lanterns on little boats in the evening. The ghosts are believed to follow the floating river lanterns away. Cultures in Asia from India to Cambodia to Japan share similar beliefs about the month, and these traditions seem to date from before Buddha.

Ancient Hungry Ghost Festival highlights how culture is being forgotten by modern generation

More ancient folk religions covered the entire area. Some of the ancient folk religion is incorporated in Taoism, the indigenous religion of China. The gates of hell are opened on the first day of the seventh month, and hungry ghosts are released to find food or to take revenge on those who have behaved badly according to Taoist records. The Taoists chant together to free the ghosts. Another story says King Yama the king of hell opens the gates of hell and allows a few wild ghosts to enjoy the sacrifices on the first day of the seventh lunar month.

The gates are closed on the last day of that month, and the wild, hungry ghosts return to hell. Almost as important as honoring your ancestors, offerings to ghosts without families must be made so that they will not cause you any harm.

Ancient tradition not being passed on

Ghost month is the most dangerous time of the year, and malevolent spirits are on the lookout to capture souls. This makes ghost month a bad time to do activities such as evening strolls, traveling, moving house, or starting a new business.


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Many people avoid swimming during ghost month since there are many spirits in the water which can try to drown you. Taoists and Buddhists perform ceremonies on this day to ease the sufferings of the deceased. If you happen to be in China during Ghost Month, it could be fun to learn these vocabulary words!

While terms like "ghost money" or "ghost month" are only applicable to Ghost Month, other words like "feast" or "offerings" can be used in casual conversation. Share Flipboard Email.