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Master Orthodox Occultist Oregon Chang, The 17th generation Disciple of Seven Stars Sword Master Hebei China

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival

It began in the Age of Fragmentation as the Ullambana (Yulanpeng) feast on the 15th day (full moon) of the 7th lunar month, held to commemorate the Buddhist legend of Moggallana (Mulian), who descended to hell to save his deceased mother's soul. The feast was held to give food to pretas, or Hungry Ghosts - spirits who had been reborn in hell because of their misdeeds and suffered from thirst and hunger there. This corresponded with pre-Buddhist Chinese views of the afterlife, in which offerings could be made to the dead in the Underworld in the form of food or other items. But the tradition developed that during the 7th month, the spirits in the Underworld would actually be released into the mortal world to feed on food offerings. Hence the popular view of the Festival came to be that these spirits must be appeased with offerings of incense, food and burned 'hell money', otherwise they might disturb the living.

Beijing is the worse place to be an example on how traditions are kept due to its political role. My college classmates know nothing about real old Chinese traditions, except Beijing opera (I attended college in Beijing). Once a friend who studied folklore asked me about rabbit's role in Chinese tradition and I asked her whether she knew about rabbit king folklore in Fujian province, she knew nothing. Here you go, how some Bejing or Shanghai big urbanites are

Also, at 15th day of the 7th month, the gate to the ghost world is open, and ghosts would be allowed to come back to the world of human to visit their family members. This is a Chinese legend with some Buddhist and Daoist influence. Therefore, most Chinese families would offer food for their ancestors who come back for a visit. I think the ghost gate is closed at the end of the month, and all ghosts must go back to the underworld. Therefore, to be safe, the 7th month is not lucky to do anything, such as marry. People who are born in the 7th month is considered the escaping ghost of the underworld, and sometimes the mothers (or fathers also) would be worried that the kings of the underworld would send someone to take these children back, especially the ones who are born between the 15th day and the 30th day. My father was born at the 19th day of the 7th month, and I remember hearing him mentioning of this fact. He was quite a sturdy boy any way, but he did fall and broke his head in the river while herding cows when he was either 3 or 4 years old (and right before the age, about 7, where the underworld has a greater claim on the children).

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