Tag Archives: hungry ghost festival

Valentines Day and China’s Other Unique Festivals

News and Travel Editor

Today is Valentines Day, you either love it or hate it but it seems the Chinese certainly love it given the fact that the Chinese Valentines Day, known as the Double Seventh Festival, predates the Western version by about 1000 years. The Double Seventh Festival is thought to have originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), whereas Valentines Day was made famous by Chaucer in the 14th Century.

This is Zhang Chunwen, Beijing’s Clown Delivery Man. He’s been in the job several years now travelling all around the city and will deliver flowers to anyone from your partner to your favourite teacher. Although, not everyone looks too pleased with this unusual method…

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated on the 14th February in the West, the Chinese have their own version, known as Double Seventh Festival, or the Qixi Festival. The festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Why on this particular date I hear you ask? The answer lies with the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. One day, Niu Lang, a cow herder met Zhi Nu, a fairy from heaven and, although some would say she was out of his league, they naturally fell in love. The story of their love soon got back to heaven, with the king and queen demanding her return. When Niu Lang tried to follow her, the queen created a wide river between them but was so moved by their tears that she allowed them to visit each other one day a year, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. The date for your diaries on this year is the 28th August, as if you wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2 times a year!

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As well as the Qixi Festival, the Chinese have a few more quirky festivals up their sleeve, celebrated throughout the year. Some of our favourites are below.

The Festival of Hungry Ghosts

Admit it, this one sounds awesome. According to traditional Chinese belief, the seventh month of the lunar calendar is when spirits of the ancestors roam the earth – Could this also be why Niu Lang and Zhi Nu meet in the seventh lunar month?! *jaw drops in fascination*. Many Chinese people will appease these ghosts by burning fake money or leaving food out for the ghosts to use in the afterlife. If you find yourself wandering the streets during this month, make sure you don’t sweep up any offerings left out, unless you want some serious misfortune befalling you…

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Monihei Carnival

This festival is best summed up by the image below.

monihei-festival
Image courtesy of http://www.yunnantravelguide.com/Line/show.asp?id=726.

 

Interested? Thought so. Monihei Festival celebrates the discovery of a local herbal medicine in Yunnan Province which is rubbed all over your body. During the festival, mud is used to the same effect as a representation of the medicine as people run around trying to get each other as filthy as possible.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Held at Pak Tai Temple in Hong Kong, the Cheng Chau Bun Festival coincides with the Buddha’s birthday and every year, 3 60ft towers are constructed from bamboo around the temple are are covered in buns. The most entertaining part of the festival is the ‘bun snatching race’, where men and women race up the tower grabbing as many buns as possible. The more you grab, the more luck you will have to share with the rest of your family.

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Dragon Boat Festival

Zigui County is the centre for this amazing spectacle. The festival commemorates the life of poet and adviser Qu Yuan. Legend has it that Qu Yuan lived around 2500 years ago during China’s Warring States period and committed suicide by drowning in a river, when his leader was defeated. Watch our exclusive video below.

 

15 Ghost Festival dos and don’ts

News and Travel Editor

Imagine eerie, deserted streets, flecked with abandoned coins and burnt money, grand offerings of fruit and hot food, and sticks upon sticks of slowly burning incense, left to stand solitarily in the moonlight.

This is not a scene from a horror film or a nightmare, but something you can see in many towns and villages across China during the seventh lunar month, known as Ghost Month; particularly on the fifteenth day, when the Ghost Festival takes place. This year it falls on August 17th.

Around this time, the Chinese have traditionally believed that the gates of the underworld are flung open and lost spirits are free to roam the Earth amongst the living. Though most Chinese people today probably don’t lay much store by these ancient beliefs, there are some interesting taboos that some people still observe during Ghost Month.
 The aim of all these Ghost Festival dos and don’ts  is to please the dead in order to ensure they don’t bring misfortune on the Chinese people;  food is offered to spirits that might be wandering around the streets, incense is burnt as a token of prosperity and lighted paper lanterns are floated across lakes to guide the ghosts back to the underworld. Make shift paper money is also burnt, as it is believed that ghosts will be able to use this as currency when they return to the underworld.

Here are some things to do to make sure you avoid bad luck…

 

  1. Children, young adults and pregnant women should not stroll outdoors at night, as it is believed that ghosts can easily possess them
  2. Don’t try to move house, as this could invite lost spirits into your new home.
  3. Don’t hang clothes outside at night, as passing ghosts may try on the clothes and linger in them.
  4. Don’t pick up coins or money found on the street and bring it home, as ghosts will find this offensive.
  5. Don’t step on offerings by the roadside, and make sure to apologise loudly to the spirits if you do.
  6. Don’t wear red or black as this may attract ghosts who may follow you home.
  7. Don’t sing or whistle as this may attract music loving ghosts.
  8. Keep away from walls as it is believed that ghosts like sticking to and flying along walls.
  9. Whatever you do, don’t go outside at midnight as ghosts may approach you.
  10. Don’t take photographs at night as ghosts may appear on them.
  11. If someone taps you on the shoulder or calls your name from behind, do not turn around and look or answer the call, as it may be a spirit waiting to reveal itself to you.
  12. Don’t curse or talk to yourself as this may invite interaction from or offend any eavesdropping ghosts around you.
  13. Don’t kill insects like moths, butterflies, or grasshoppers in the house as they may be manifestations of passed ancestors visiting their family home.
  14. Avoid leaving the main door to your home open at night, as this could invite unwanted ghosts into the premises.
  15. Don’t poke chopsticks vertically into rice as this can look like the incense used when praying to ancestral spirits. A ghosts may think that you’re inviting them to share your meal.

You have been warned!