As a Chinese, the Hungry Ghost Festival is part and parcel of my life. Yesterday, I chanced upon this gigantic paper effigy of the King of Hades (Tai Su Yeah) in his full regalia as I passed by the Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple in Happy Garden (Taman Taiping) in Ipoh.
It’s the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, after all, and most Buddhist or Taoist temples around the world would be busy observing the Hungry Ghost Festival during this “Ghost Month”. It is believed that the Chinese seventh month is when the Gates of Hades are open to enable spirits and ghosts to roam the earth to seek salvation.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is known as “Yu Lan” in Cantonese and “Ullambana” in Sanskrit. It means “deliverance from suffering” particularly for anguished souls in Hell. Buddhists and Taoists would hold prayer ceremonies to commemorate their departed loved ones during this time.
A ceremony is conducted at the end of the Ghost Festival whereby the King of Hades will be sent off by burning its paper effigy, together with the paper effigy of the deities in charge of Hell; also a paper vessel carrying spirits and ghosts to send them back to their spiritual realm. Some believe the vessel sets off to “Western Paradise”.
“Ghost Day” falls on the 15th day of the lunar month, but some regions may observe it a day earlier, on the 14th. More information on the Chinese Ghost Festival is on Wikipedia.
This year’s “Ghost Month” began on 17th Aug and will end on 15th Sept. “Ghost Day” falls on 31st Aug.
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