Hungry Ghost Festival
The Hungry Ghost Festival is usually observed by the Taoists and Buddhists. It falls on the 15th day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese believe that the gates of hell would open during the seventh month and release the spirits from the netherworld to roam among the living until the gate closes again on the last day of the lunar month.
According to the traditional Taoism practice, the Hungry Ghost Festival focuses on appeasing the wandering souls looking for food. During this month, the Taoist priests would perform rites and food offerings, while devotees would visit temples to offer prayers to avoid unfortunate mishaps. The Taoist community would also burn incense and joss paper, perform live Chinese operas as they believe that the wandering spirits would enjoy the entertainment.
On the other hand, the Buddhists would observe the month through prayers and offerings for their ancestors. They believe that the prayers would save their ancestors from the suffering of the fiery depths in the underworld. The Buddhists emphasise the teachings of filial piety. In the story of Mu Lian, a monk pleaded to the Buddha to rescue his mother who has been sentenced to purgatory. According to the Buddha, the only way to save his mother was to conduct a collective mass prayer on the 15th day of the seventh month. In order to do so, Mu Lian must first pay his utmost respect to every monk by offering food and water to them. As a result, everyone prayed for the release of Mu Lian’s mother with utmost piety, and this is the origin of offering food to the hungry ghosts.