hungry ghost

~hungry ghost~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~hungry ghost~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

The ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ happens annually during the Seventh month of the Chinese calendar. During this period, traders and residents from the same street or community would collectively raise funds to organize a feast complete with entertainment in the form of traditional puppet or opera shows or the modern version called ‘Ko Tai’ (a stage performance) to appease ‘Tai Su Yeah’ (God of Hades pictured above) who is supposedly the deity who protects mortals and these wandering spirits, whom were released from the underworld to roam about for one full month.

~other paper effigies~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~other paper effigies~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

There is a marked difference between ancestor worshipping that happens during ‘Cheng Beng’ (All Souls Day) as compared to the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is a ritual to appease all ghosts, be they young or old, in the hope that these ‘lost souls’, some of whom are out to seek vengeance, will not disturb them. And especially to those termed ‘wandering spirits’. Spirits of whom were denied proper ritual sent-offs when they passed away, those who died in road accidents and their souls were left to roam, or those whose next of kin and ancestors forgets to pay homage to them, therefore the term ‘Hungry Ghosts’. During this month, younger children and adults are taught to observe the strictest of curfews, latest by midnight, to avoid encountering these spirits.  The food served on the altar are meant to appease ‘Tai Su Yeah’ who would relish the offerings first, before the believers can consume them, and the first few ‘premium’ rows in front of the Ko Tai are reserved for these spirits on the fifteen night of the seven month. The paper effigies and ‘Hell’ money are meant for the spirits, and are burnt.  Superstitious as it is, the Seventh month is also a taboo period for those wanting to ‘tie-the-knot’, relocate their home or business premise, kick-start a business, career, education etc. as bad luck is said to befall them. Exactly midnight, on the last day of the festival, the ghosts would all return back to their own world, as the Gates of Hell closes. The effigy of Tai Su Yeah is then lit up in a bonfire alongside the rest of the paper effigy. The array of food left on the altar table, after being consumed by the spirits, would be distributed to the needy. Picture taken at Concordia Road, Pulau Tikus, Penang.

~guardians of hade~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~guardians of hade~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

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