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Ghost festival

The meaning of «ghost festival»

The Ghost Festival, also known as the Zhongyuan Festival (traditional Chinese: 中元節; simplified Chinese: 中元节) in Taoism and Yulanpen Festival (traditional Chinese: 盂蘭盆節; simplified Chinese: 盂兰盆节; pinyin: Yúlánpénjié) in Buddhism. It is a traditional Taoist and Buddhist festival held in certain East Asian countries. According to the Chinese calendar (a lunisolar calendar), the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh month (14th in parts of southern China).[1][2]: 4, 6  [note 1]

In Chinese culture, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm.[which?] Distinct from both the Qingming Festival (or Tomb Sweeping Day, in spring) and Double Ninth Festival (in autumn) in which living descendants pay homage to their deceased ancestors, during Ghost Festival, the deceased are believed to visit the living.[3]

On the fifteenth day the realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is veneration of the dead, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living. Ancestor worship is what distinguishes Qingming Festival from Ghost Festival because the latter includes paying respects to all deceased, including the same and younger generations, while the former only includes older generations. Other festivities may include buying and releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the lost ghosts and spirits of the ancestors and other deities.[4]

As a Taoist festival: Taoism has the "Three Yuan Theory", from which the name "Zhong Yuan" comes from. In the Tang Dynasty, when the rulers admired Taoism, the Taoist Zhongyuan Festival began to flourish, and the "Zhongyuan" was gradually fixed as the name of the festival. The festival was set on July 15 of the lunar calendar and has continued to the present day.

As a Buddhist festival: The origin story of the modern Ghost Festival, ultimately originated from ancient India, deriving from the Mahayana scripture known as the Yulanpen or Ullambana Sutra.[5]: 301, 302  [note 2] The sutra records the time when Maudgalyayana achieves abhijñā and uses his new found powers to search for his deceased parents. Maudgalyayana discovers that his deceased mother was reborn into the preta or hungry ghost realm. She was in a wasted condition and Maudgalyayana tried to help her by giving her a bowl of rice. Unfortunately as a preta, she was unable to eat the rice as it was transformed into burning coal. Maudgalyayana then asks the Buddha to help him; whereupon Buddha explains how one is able to assist one's current parents and deceased parents in this life and in one's past seven lives by willingly offering food, etc., to the sangha or monastic community during Pravarana (the end of the monsoon season or vassa), which usually occurs on the 15th day of the seventh month whereby the monastic community transfers the merits to the deceased parents, etc.,[6]: 185  [note 3] [5]: 293  [note 4] [7]: 286  [note 5]

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