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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

7th Month of the Oriental

To the Chinese People this month is the hungry ghost festival. Other races like Malay and Indian may question why do we celebrate hungry ghost festival.

It actually depends whether you really believe in that or you doesn't believe it. Well for me, it might be half.

On the first day itself, my mum keep reminding me to come back home early. The first day was actually on the Tuesday. I had a friend gathering on the Wednesday. Around 8pm, the road should be crowded with cars but on that night the road was left with a few number of cars.

 Majority of them prefer to go back home early because this month is also the fasting month for the Muslim. Restaurants were crowded with people. People had their dinner there.

 * Coming back the Hungry Ghost festival topic: To some Chinese that believe the existence of ghost, they will make sure everyone in their family be home by 8pm. They will not let their family members to go out late at night.

This is the month where a lot of empty rooms available in every hotels. Chinese people will not go to vacation during the seventh month. They will not stay in hotel. The Ghost Festival is celebrated during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. It also falls at the same time as a full moon, the new season, the fall harvest, the peak of Buddhist monastic asceticism, the rebirth of ancestors, and the assembly of the local community.

 During this month, the gates of hell are opened up and ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment. These ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who have forgotten to pay tribute to them after they had died, or those who have suffered deaths and were never given a proper ritual for a send-off.

They have long needle-thin necks because they have not been fed by their family, or it is a sign of punishment so they are unable to swallow. Family members offer prayers to their deceased relatives, offer food and drink and burn joss paper. Such paper items are only valid in the underworld, which is why they burn it as an offering to the ghosts that have come from the gates of hell. The afterlife is very similar in some aspects to the material world, and the paper effigies of material goods would provide comfort to in the afterlife.

People would also burn other things such as paper houses, cars, servants and televisions to please the ghosts. Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls do not intrude on their lives and bring misfortune and bad luck.

A large feast is held for the ghosts on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, where everyone brings samplings of food and places them on the offering table to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck. In some East Asian countries today, live performances are held and everyone is invited to attend. The first row of seats are always empty as this is where the ghosts sit.

The shows are always put on at night and at high volumes as the sound attracts and please the ghosts. Some shows include Chinese opera, dramas, and in some areas, even burlesque shows. These acts are better known as "Merry-making". For rituals, Buddhist and Taoists hold ceremonies to relieve ghosts from suffering, many of them holding ceremonies in the afternoon or at night (as it is believed that the ghosts are released from hell when the sun sets).

Altars are built for the deceased and priests and monks alike perform rituals for the benefit of ghosts. Monks and priests often throw rice or other small foods into the air in all directions to distribute them to the ghosts. During the evening, incense is burnt in front of the doors of each household. Incense stands for prosperity in Chinese culture, so families believe that there is more prosperity in burning more incense.

During the festival, some shops are closed as they wanted to leave the streets open for the ghosts. In the middle of each street stood an altar of incense with fresh fruit and sacrifices displayed on it. 14 days after the festival, to make sure all the hungry ghosts find their way back to hell, people flow water lanterns and set them outside their houses (a practice that can be found amongst the Japanese during Obon).

These lanterns are made by setting a lotus flower-shaped lantern on a paper boat. The lanterns are used to direct the ghosts back to the underworld, and when they go out, it symbolizes that they found their way back.

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