Are there ghosts in the world?
It’s a question that everyone has probably thought about
“Of course not — have you ever seen it?” a lot of people answered affirmatively like that
“Really? What if it does exist?” many people questioned in mind secretly
For thousands of years, the uncertainty of the theory of paranormal creatures gives the ghost a mysterious image
From ancient mystery novels to today’s ghost stories and horror film,
The image of the ghosts plays a pivotal role in Chinese cultural folklore
Speaking of the ghost, today may be the day we come closest to their world
Gate of the Hell opens
According to legend, Zhongyuan Festival (Also called Hungry Ghost Festival) falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month
During the festival, the officials of the underworld would grant amnesty to the ghosts in hell
At the time, the gates of hell would be widely open
And the ghost can come out from the underworld and go back to human world
Ghost who still has a family in human world can return to their home by following the water lantern that the family light up for them
While the homeless ghost will be haunting on the street for a whole day
The Origin of Zhongyuan Festival
The custom of worshiping ancestors in lunar middle July has a fairly long history, but the official birth of Zhongyuan Festival has a strong correlation with religious doctrines. According to Taoist legend, the 15th day of the lunar seventh month is the day for the underground officials to absolve the ghosts. According to Buddhist legend, lunar July 15 is the Festival of Obon, on which Buddhist disciples perform their best in extraditing the dead. Since all are set on the same day and related to ghosts, after the Song Dynasty, the festival of Ancestor worship, the Hungry Ghost Festival and the Obon Festival are collectively known as the Zhongyuan Festival.
Float River Lanterns
On the Zhongyuan Festival, people will go to the river to put river lanterns. A river lantern is usually made in a shape of lotus. After a lamp or candle is placed on its base, people put the river lantern along the riverbank and let it float with the water. If you look down at the water from above, you can see the orange glow scattered on the water surface. Ancient people once explained the symbolic meaning of the river lantern: the dark water under the river surface symbolized the underworld hell, if there is no light to guide the way, the ghosts are not able to see their road when coming back from the hell to the human world. People in human world feared that their deceased ancestors would not find their way home, so they lit river lanterns on the river to illuminate their way.
Burn Paper Money
Burning paper money is a very important activity during Zhongyuan Festival. It is said that the yellow paper in human world is the money of the underworld, and people burn the paper to send money to their deceased ancestors. In this way, their ancestors can have money to spend, food to eat, and clothes to wear in the underworld. It is customary to leave a few pieces of paper to burn at the crossroads in order to give some charity to the homeless ghosts, so that they will not rob the money that people burn for their own ancestors.
The most essential meaning of the Zhongyuan Festival is the worship of the deceased ancestors. In the eyes of the ancients, death was not the end, and the dead people simply went to underworld. Therefore, in most people’s mind, they need to offer food and money every year to their ancestors so that they could live a good life in another world. Ancestor worship is not only a return of gratitude for the blessings from ancestors, but also a kind of respect and care from generation to generation.
On Zhongyuan Festival, the virtue also lies in the alms giving to homeless ghosts from people. Kind people often leave a portion of paper money and food to the homeless ghosts. This is both a charitable character and a compassionate goodwill.
Mr. Guangzhong Yu once had such a poem
“The Mid-Autumn Festival is the hope of alive beings, entrusted in the human world. And Zhongyuan, Zhongyuan belongs to world of the dead, it is another dimension.”
There are three important holidays for family reunion in Chinese culture annually, all of which are on the date of full moon.
One is the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month
One is the the Mid-Autumn Festival on 15th day of the 8th lunar month
And another is the Zhongyuan Festival on lunar July 15th
The first two holidays are for the reunion of living people. And only the Zhongyuan Festival is a gathering across the life and death, a reunion for the ghosts with their family, and a chance for beings in human world and underworld to deliver their miss to each other.
中元节：[zhōng yuán jié] n. Zhongyuan Festivel (Hungry Ghost Festival) on lunar July 15th
鬼魂：[guǐ hún] n. ghost; the soul of dead people
孝道：[xiào dào] n. filial piety
团圆：[tuán yuán] n. / v. family reunion
思念：[sī niàn] v. miss someone
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