Hungry Ghost Festival & Shopping for the Dead

Offering in Ghost Festival
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The annual big party is around the corner, but it’s not for human. The Hungry Ghost Festival of Chinese this year falls on 9 Aug (14 Jul of Chinese’s Lunar Calendar), the time when the gate of hell opens and ghosts visit our world, and the festival lasts for a month. It’s not a Halloween type of occasion. Chinese takes this event seriously and celebrations will be held to pay homage to the ghosts.

graveyard
Confucius says, “respect ghosts and gods, but stay away from them”, this reflects how Chinese deals with the spiritual world. Though Chinese are afraid of ghosts, they worships and appease them, hoping that they will leave human alone and even bring good luck.

buring incense
Do you believe that ghost exists? I have heard many say, “I will never believe there is ghost until I see one!” Many of them are devout followers of a religion, so I wonder if they actually see god so they become a believer. No offense.

funeral
I think fear of death is the reason why many people want a religion, because every religion offers an answer after death, such as afterlife, heaven and immortality. And some wish ghost is real, which means they still can “live” on in another form after they die. What do you think?

graves
Personally, I haven’t seen any ghost (and never want to), but seems like every offices that I work at are haunted. I’m used to work late and being the only one in the office at night. Sometimes I heard strange voice or noise clearly. Usually I just ignore them and try not to think too much. There was one night I heard someone walking behind my seat, I turned around a few times and saw nothing, but the footsteps getting closer each time. That was really eerie.

burning paper money

The Don’t

During Ghost Month, many ghosts will be lingering around us. The following is an “advisory” for us not to do something inauspicious (Note: only work for those who believe).

  1. Don’t joke about ghost and don’t mention them. If we have to, we refer them as “Good Brother.”
  2. Don’t step on the offering (incense, candle, paper money, food, etc.) on the street and graves. However, PTIs (illegal immigrants) feast on these leftover food without problem. Probably they are ghost too, i.e. Phantom Voters.
  3. Reduce night-time activity. I have a friend who has “3rd-eye” that can see Good Brothers. One night, she was walking back home during ghost festival, she saw the street near her house turned into a very busy Pasar Malam (Night Market). “That’s weird. This place is not used to be a night market,” she was wondering, then she saw those people have no feet…
  4. Swimming is a big NO-No. Something in the water would drag you…
  5. Our deceased family members would ride on insect such as moth and beetle to visit our house. Don’t slap it with slippers because it might be our great grandmother. (hope they don’t choose cicada as it’ll be a bumpy ride…)
  6. Don’t play Ouija board to interact with “another side.” It’s very dangerous and you will risk yourselves being possessed.
  7. Don’t disguise as ghost to scare someone, because you will see (or make) the real one. It’s not funny whatsoever.
  8. If you see or hear anything unusual or unexplainable, just pretend you aren’t aware of it.

offering

Shopping for the Dead

As there will be many hungry ghosts wandering, to show respect, some believers will burn paper money for them. Out of curiosity, I checked out a local shop that sells paper money and other “paper” stuffs. I was really impressed by the variety of the items. Chinese believes the dead is having the similar lifestyle in another world, at least its their hope…

paper money
Pic: paper money, the most common offering

paper gold bars
Pic: paper gold bars

paper smartphone and tablet
Pic: iPad? I’m glad that Steve Jobs still carries on with his product development in another world.

paper shoes
Pic: paper shoes

paper blouse
Pic: blouse for lady

paper batik
Pic: paper batik for Malaysians.

paper wallet

paper handbag

paper accessories

paper toiletries

paper SK-III
Pic: to make a female ghost pretty…

paper mahjong
Pic: heaven doesn’t ban gambling, alcohol and cigarette I think..

paper wine

paper cigarette

paper toy
Pic: paper toy for children

paper bike
Pic: paper bike

paper car
Pic: paper car. Note driver included.

paper passport
Pic: passport and credit card

paper air ticket
Pic: this reminds me of the recent tragedy. Let’s pray for them. RIP…

praying
Does everything end when we die? Imagine a baby is about to born, he cries and thinks he will leave the world (womb) and that’s the end of it. Then he meets a new world outside the body of his mother. Is death the same thing? I mean a process that transform us into another life form and live in another new world? I don’t know.

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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  • Wes

    Really enjoyed reading about how the Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated in Sabah! If you’d like to see preparations here in the United States, you can see my guide here: http://www.chineseholidays101.com/hungry-ghost-festival/

  • Thanks Wes for sharing. I didn’t know Ghost Festival is also celebrated in US.