The Chinese Ghost Festival Explained

From ReligionForBreakfast.

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The Hungry Ghost Festival in China is held on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month. It’s a time when it’s believed that restless ghosts roam the earth. During this festival, people pay homage to these deceased ancestors and other wandering spirits, seeking to appease them. Families often prepare offerings of food and drink, and make ritualized items such as joss paper (hell money) and incense to honor the departed souls. These offerings are meant to satisfy the ‘hungry ghosts,’ preventing them from bringing misfortune to the living. Performances, including opera and puppet shows, are held to entertain both the living and the spiritual guests.

Stephen Teiser, "The Ghost Festival in Medieval China," 1988.

Mu-Chou Poo, "Ghosts and Religious Life in Early China," 2022.

Ingmar Heise, "For Buddhas, families, and ghosts: the transformations of the Ghost Festival into a Dharma Assembly in southeast China," in "Buddhist Funeral Cultures of Southeast Asia and China," 2012.

Hong Yin Chan, "The Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore: Getai (Songs on Stage) in the Lunar Seventh Month," Religions 2020. 11(7), 356.

Select footage and images courtesy of Getty