Ghost Festival

(4) Life – Chinese Ghost Month / 生活 (4) – 中元节

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Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival, which is also call a Mong Lang Festival or Ghost Month.  The Chinese believe that during the Seventh Lunar Month, the Gates of Hell are opened and spirits are let out to roam the earth for 30 days foraging for food.  Believers will arrange worship ceremony to pray and appease the spirits in return to get their blessings.


Another saying is derived from a Buddhist tale.  Moggallana a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha had supernatural powers and his mother during his lifetime did a lot of bad things.  She became hungry ghosts after her death.  Moggallana used his supernatural ability to offer food to his beloved mother, but whenever the food touches her mouth it turned into ashes.  He was heartbroken and seek help from Sakyamuni Buddha.  The Buddha told him to draw on the power of the monks, and on this very day of 15th of the Seventh Month to place five types of grains into a pot so as to appease his mother.  Moggallana act in accordance to the Buddha’s instruction and his mother was finally rescued.


From then on, the form of worship passed from generation to generation, and it evolve into diversity.  Getai (a live stage performance) is one of the ritual evolution of the festival and is popular both in Singapore and Malaysia.  The performances and ceremonies are usually jointly organised by number of unions or/and small organisations.  There will be a makeshift canopy of a small stage, looking for some well-known presenters and entertainers, with their boisterous singing and dancing, match with the world’s best music, the very civilians entertaining.  The performance are meant to be for the spirits but also for people during the Seventh Month.  Chairs lined up in the audience’s front rows are usually empty and reserved for the spirits.  This form of entertainment has become a must have in the Seventh Month festivals.


The performance are meant to be for the spirits but also for people during the Seventh Month.  Chairs lined up in the audience’s front rows are usually empty and reserved for the spirits.


Another observed ceremony is the auction where people dine at the auction dinner and bid for the highest priced items.  The sucessful bidder will bring home the items where the Good Brothers (euphemism for spirits) will bless them with good tidings for the following year.


As the saying goes “When a man attains enlightenment, even his pets ascent to heaven”.  Next to the performance stage, there are some itinerant hawkers selling ice creams, Ma-Ci (a soft rice snack with grounded peanuts) etc.  This does not only reflects the local culture and folklore, it adds a contribution to the national economy.




Far more and far most, it is even more gratifying and commendable that the grassroots traditional culture is able to survive in the era of Science and Technology.