The Ghost Month is the seventh lunar month of Chinese Lunar Calendar. The 15th lunar day of the 7th lunar month is the Chinese Ghost Festival. The Chinese formal name of the Ghost Festival is Chung-Yuan . The first lunar day of 7th lunar month is on August 22, 2017. September 5, 2017 is the 15th lunar day, which is the Chinese Ghost Festival. The first lunar day of 8th lunar month is on September 20, 2017. Therefore, the Ghost Month is from August 28 to September 19 in the China time zone.
Many Chinese families have both Buddhism and Taoism religions. The spirits jailed in the Hell are called ghosts. The folklore says the ghosts have one-month parole and will travel to the towns in the 7th lunar month every year. People have better to feast them. People are afraid that ghosts play trick-or-treat game. That is why Chinese call the 7th lunar month as the Ghost Month.
To feast the ghosts is from a story of Buddhism. Moggallana was one of Buddha Shakyamuni's best students. He had various supernormal powers and owned the divine eyes. One day, he saw his deceased mother had been born among hungry ghosts. He went down the Hell, filled a bowl with food to provide for his mother. Before reaching his mother's month, the food turned into burning coals which couldn't be eaten. Moggallana cried sorrowfully and asked for help from Buddha. Buddha said the sins of his mother was deep and firmly rooted, it couldn't be forgiven just using the divine power and it's required the combined power of thousand monks to get rid of her sins. Buddha told Moggallana that, "the 15th day of the 7th lunar month is the Pavarana Day for the assembled monks of all directions. You should prepare an offering of clean basins full of hundreds of flavors and the five fruits, and other offerings of incense, oil, lamp, candle... to the greatly virtuous assembled monks. Your present parents and parents of seven generations will escape from sufferings." Following Buddha's instructions, Moggallana's mother obtained liberation from sufferings as a hungry host by receiving the power of the merit and virtue form the awesome spiritual power of assembled monks on 15th day of the 7th lunar month. Today, similar rituals are held in the Buddhism temples on this day for the deliverance of all suffering spirits.
The altar of Chung-Yuan has different scales and designs
People at home prepare lots of food to worship gods and pray for their spirits of ancestors, and them treat the homeless ghosts. Some cities will spend weeks to build multi-story sacrificial altar. The Taoists will fast and take a bath, wear formal dress and perform the religious ceremony to pray good luck for spirits on the Chung-Yuan Day. The lighting decoration of altar at night is the entertainment for ghosts. Certainly, Chinese will bring children to there for sightseeing and to learn the traditional culture.
The altar of Chinese Ghost Festival at night
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