Students aren’t the only ones moving around at the end of summer. Ghosts are too! This year, August 21 marks 中元節 (zhōngyuánjié), the Ghost Festival, and the middle of what’s commonly known as 鬼月 (guǐyuè), or Ghost Month. Ghost Month takes place during the seventh lunar month of every year, usually falling on August in the Gregorian calendar.
In Chinese communities around the world, people observe the Ghost Festival. It is believed that the souls of the dead come to Earth during this time. The living must take care of these souls and show them mercy and respect. People flock to temples, shrines and even into the streets to make offerings to the dead. Offerings are made in a variety of manners. The most common offering is the burning of incense.
Incense is a common sight in temples year-round, but some of the other offerings during the Ghost Festival are more unique. People will often offer gifts that the dead would enjoy in the afterlife. Temples overflow with tables filled to the brim with fruit, chips, noodles, and even beer for their ancestors.
Temples and streets alike fill with smoke as people burn other gifts for the dead. It is believed that burning joss paper and papier-mâché gifts will keep ancestors happy in the afterlife. What is joss paper? Joss paper, or 金紙 (jīnzhǐ), is imitation money that people often burn in the streets throughout Ghost Month. The souls of the dead can use this money to be happy and prosperous in the afterlife
Along with Ghost Month’s focus on taking care of the souls of the dead, many people also believe that evil ghosts are much more active during this time. During Ghost Month, remember not to go out late at night or swim in the ocean! These are just a couple situations where evil ghosts can get you!
With the threat of ghosts looming around every corner, Ghost Month acts as China’s version of Halloween. In the days leading up to the Ghost Festival, horror movies are especially popular! This year the movie The Conjuring has been hugely popular in China and Taiwan. The best way to prepare for the scariest month of the year is to watch the scariest movie of the year! For more about movies in China, keep an eye out for our upcoming blog post about the Chinese movie industry.
Cheng & Tsui hopes you have a wonderful Ghost Festival! And we hope yours is filled with more friendly ghosts than scary ghosts!