Much like Western culture's Halloween, some Eastern
cultures celebrate a Fall festival where they believe the gates of hell
are thrown open, releasing hungry ghosts to wander the earth in search of
food and taking revenge upon those who wronged them in life. This
month-long festival is known as the Hungry Ghost Festival and takes place
during the 7th lunar month.
Unlike other celebrations of the dead in Eastern cultures that seek to
honor dead ancestors, the Hungry Ghost Festival seeks to pacify the hungry
ghosts, the ghosts of strangers and the un-cared-for dead. These are the
ghosts of those who died by their own hands, by accidents, by drowning or
hanging who have been denied entry into heaven. Angry because they are
forced to dwell in hell without food or comfort, when released, they
search for souls to take their place in misery.
To Taoists（道教徒） and Buddhists（佛教徒）, these evil spirits are not to be
taken lightly. They are most active at night and can take many forms
including: snakes, moths（蛾）, birds, foxes, wolves, and tigers. They can
even appear as beautiful men or women to seduce the living. When they
possess an individual by entering the body they cause illness and mental
Throughout this month, to keep the angry spirits
amused, people stage street operas and other forms of public
entertainment. In the past, people did not view the street operas as they
were performed only for ghosts. Other rituals（典礼，仪式）are performed to help
souls enter into heaven. Taoists do their best to avoid late nights away
from these amusements and rituals to steer clear of the evil spirits. To
appease these wandering spirits, Buddhists and Taoists burn bundles of
joss sticks, paper hell money, food, and other offerings by the roadside.
Communities along rivers or near the sea float lanterns in the shape of
the lotus or carved from fruit or gourds in the water to guide them away
from their homes. They follow the lanterns from the river bank or sea
shore till they can no longer be seen. This is done to redeem the soul of
those who died by drowning.
The most important days of this month are the 14th and 15th, the days
of the great feasts. On the 14th, a great feast would be held to honor
family ancestors. Prayers and offerings would be made at family altars. On
the following night, the 15th, they would feast for the hungry ghosts.
Held outside under the full moon, these feasts feed the evil spirits so
that they will leave the living alone and bribe（贿赂） the ancestors for luck
with money and the harvest.