The Chinese Ghost Month

Every year on the 7th lunar month of the Chinese advent calender, comes a month of weird celebrations. In some parts of Asia, where there is a dense population of Chinese people, you would see people burning pieces of brightly coloured paper in a large tin box outside their homes, or a group of people carrying a sedan chair with a life-like paper doll inside dressed in colourful costume.  In 2017, this month falls between the 22nd August- September 18th. So if you are going on a trip to somewhere such as China, Singapore, Malaysia or Taiwan in this period of time, here are a few things which may be useful to know.

Customs

Its believed amongst many in the chinese population that during this month, the gates of Hell are open and all residents from Hell are free to roam the living world. Those who have family members left, will go and visit them, and those who are not in chinese they are known as the 孤魂野鬼. Traditionally that is one of the reasons why a lot of chinese parents are extremely worried if their children do not have offspring, as no-one will offer them sacrifices, i.e. food, drinks and even clothes when they die and when they return every year. But not to worry, many cities, now offer music, food and drinks and burn joss paper to these lonely ghosts on Ghost Day (15th day of the Ghost month, although in some places it is on the 14th) to appease these ghosts so that they will not bring harm to the living. So my 1st tip would probably be not to touch any food you see lying around, even if you are just curious, because they are probably offerings to someone’s ancestors or a lonely, hungry ghost as it would be a sign of disrespect and some would even say bring you bad luck.

Its tradition for family members to offer sacrifices to their ancestors three times a day on a table during the month and on Ghost Day. Buddhists and Taoist monks would perform rituals to ease the suffering of the dead during this month such as setting alters and chanting religious scriptures.

The Ghost Festival

This is the 15th day of the month ( in 2017 it will be on 5th September) where the ghosts are supposed to be at their most powerful. This is why many celebrations on this day. In the evening, people will float paper lanterns on the rivers to help their relatives find their way home. These lanterns are usually lotus shaped with a candle lit in the middle.

The last day of the month

People may also celebrate this day in various ways, for example, burning more ghost money, paper maiche cars/ clothes and even computers and mobile phones for them to use in hell.

Taboos

  1. Try not to stroll around when its dark, especially if you are with children.
  2. Do not step or kick on offerings even if its on the floor not only because its disrespectful but it may incur the wrath of a hungry ghost.
  3. Do not get married.
  4. Do not move house.
  5. Best to postphone those big travel plans as mischievous ghosts may cause mayhem during your trip!
  6. Avoid deserted places as its considered “dirty” meaning that there may be homeless, hungry ghosts there.
  7. Avoid the Reds and Blacks as the ghosts may mistaken you as one of them and follow you home.
  8. Avoid swimming as its believed drowned ghosts may try to find a victim to help them return to the living world again.
  9. Don’t pick up coins or money.

Interesting vocabulary

English Pinyin Traditional Characters Simplified Characters
altar shén tán 神壇 神坛
ghost guǐ
vampire jiāng shī 殭屍 僵尸
ghost money zhǐ qián 紙錢 纸钱
incense xiāng
ghost month guǐ yuè 鬼月 鬼月
offering gōng pǐn 供品 供品
praying jì bài 祭拜 祭拜

Source from Thoughtco.com

Hotels in general

There are many chinese superstitions about hotels. Its considered as a “dirty” place. Unfortunately, we will never know the true numbers of people who died in a hotel room, but chances are there are probably quite a few people who have died.

See: https://www.reddit.com/r/theydidthemath/comments/2f2c5z/if_i_stay_in_one_random_hotel_room_a_night_each/

https://www.quora.com/How-often-does-a-guest-die-in-a-major-hotel

On a recent trip to Singapore, I experienced something similar firsthand in the hotel I stayed in. I was just coming out of my room, when a group of policemen, nurses and paramedics were trying to figure the best way to take a female guest who apparently tried to commit suicide out of the hotel, without causing too much disturbance. Unfortunately, they figured the best route out was through the emergency exit, and my room was opposite to the door leading to the exit. So I ran straight into them on my way out. And because the corridor as so narrow, some maneuvering was needed, not a pleasant sight to see on a trip.

Anyway, there are several tips which I want to share with you to warn off the ghosts which may be lurking in your room:

  1. Try and avoid the room at the end of the corridor, there are studies, which show that these rooms are less inhabited compared to the rest of the rooms and any room where there is a smaller human presence, has a higher chance that there is a spirit present.
  2. If you’re unsure, knock on the door three times before you enter and tell them that you’re coming in.
  3. Go through the room, opening any doors i.e the door to the bathroom and wardrobes, flush the toilet and generally making as much noise as possible to tell them that this is your room now and that you’re the boss

 

Anyway, if you are planning a trip, then I hope you have a wonderful trip and if not, hope this post was an interesting read into some traditional chinese beliefs.

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