Friday, August 27, 2010
The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calender (August/September). Generally the 7th month is considered a 'ghost' month and auspicious occasions such as weddings are not held during this month.
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 ancestor worship, 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-mache 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.
Today (August 26) is the Taoist ceremony.
While the Buddhist ceremonies were a subdued affair, the Taoist one does provide entertainment for all their guests, this worldly or other worldly. Today there was a movie being shown.
I have not seen one of these outdoor projectors in years and watching the projectionist at work was in itself entertaining.
In any entertainment of these sorts, seats are always left vacant for the many 'other worldly' guests who come a-calling.
There is a lot more food stuff today then there was yesterday. I also noticed that some of the Buddha images have been covered up.
There was a performance by a person in period costume. His movements were as if he was in some sort of trance. The people surrounding, watching him were holding lighted joss-sticks.
He was accompanied by the sound of a cymbal and drums. Being Chinese is not a prerequisite to be part of the performance as the 'drummer' shows.
After his performance, he took a short break.
Food and other stuff were brought to be blessed by the priest. I was admiring the golden lotus on the head-gear of the priest.
Some of the sweets and folded joss paper were distributed amongst the devotees present.
Just then a fire truck passed by.
A large bonfire of 'Hell Bank' notes, joss paper and other paper items were being prepared.
The fire truck moved into place near where the bonfire was being set up, as a precautionary measure against any 'accidental' incident.
I noticed the paper mansion from yesterday was missing, probably already set alight as an offering to the dearly departed. The boat-house was still there to be part of today's offerings.
That's as much of what I could record of this year's Hungry Ghost Festival at Jalan Chengal, Kuala Lumpur. I missed some of the stage performances that were held earlier. Maybe next year I'll be able to record the full event, from beginning to end.