Ghost Festival, or Zhongyuan Festival — Worship of the Deceased

How many Ghost Festivals in China?

Which Ghost Festival is the most important one in China?

When and How is Ghost Festival originated?

Customs, traditions, and activities of the Ghost Festival.

What are the taboos of the Ghost Festival?

How many Ghost Festivals in China?

 

There are three Ghost Festivals in China each year: 

 

  • Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day on March of Traditional Chinese Calendar, to worship ancestors and clean up their tombs;

 

  • Zhongyuan Festival, or Yulan Festival, on the 15th of July of Traditional Chinese Calendar, to commemorate the deceased;

 

  • Winter Clothes Festival on 1st of October of Chinese Traditional Calendar, to send winter clothes to the deceased in the other world. 

Which Ghost Festival is the most important one in China?

 

The most famous Ghost Festival in China is the Zhongyuan Festival, also named Yulan Festival, on 15th of July of Traditional Chinese Calendar

 

This day is believed the time that the gate on the other side would open, and ghosts would visit the earth. 

 

Therefore, this is a festival to worship and commemorate deceased ones.

When and How is Ghost Festival originated?

 

In ancient China, July in Traditional Chinese Calendar is the month of harvest. People would worship deities and ancestors with newly harvested crops, to show respect and gratitude, and pray for their blessings. 

 

Until the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 — 220), Taoism Religion was formed, and Buddhism had been introduced, more ceremonies and meanings were added in July in Chinese Calendar.

Part of Murals of Taoism Deities on Walls inside the Yongle Palace (Built in 1247 — 1358) in Shanxi Province

Taoism Religion:

The name Zhongyuan Festival is from Taoism Religion that believed the gate on the other side would open in the middle of July. 

 

On this day, ghosts that have descendants would go back to their families and check on their beloved ones. For those homeless deceased that have no family, Taoists would hold grand ceremonies in temples to comfort and pray for them.

 

Buddhism:

Yulan Festival is the name of Buddhism that is more focused on to expiate, pray, relieve souls, and provide food for the hungry ghosts. 

Customs, traditions, and activities of the Ghost Festival

 

  • Burn spirit money and paper made utensils, such as paper clothes, house, mobile phone, etc., on the grave, or along rivers, or intersections.

While doing it along rivers and intersections, people should draw a circle and write the receiver's name on the ground, and then burn everything inside the circle.  

Meanwhile, they also burn some spirit money outside of the circle for homeless ghosts nearby, to make sure they won't rob anything from their ancestors.  

  • Worship ancestors, and provide them good food.

  • Taoism and Buddhism temples would hold grand ceremonies on this day; religious or not, all people could attend those rites if they want.  

  • Fang Yan Kou, a ceremony to pray and provide food to hungry ghosts. 

  • Hold sacrifice ceremonies to the earth and crops.

  • Place river lanterns on rivers or lakes, to illuminate paths for ghosts to visit home and go back to the other world.

What are the taboos of the Ghost Festival?

  • Do not go out on 14th, 15th, and 16th of July of Chinese Traditional Calendar, after sunset;

  • Do not stay up till midnight;

  • Do not burn spirit money in inappropriate places, such as those easy to cause a fire;

  • Do not interpolate chopsticks into bowls while eating;

  • Do not swim in, or play close to, river, lake, sea, and any other water on the fields;

  • Do not pick up any types of money on the street;

  • Do not take and eat any sacrifice offerings without approval;

  • Do not take photos at night;

  • Do not trample or walk into circles that other people drew for burning spirit money;

  • Do not say disrespectful words about deceased ones and ghosts;

  • If hearing someone calling your name at night, do not immediately turn around and answer.

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