Cross-Cultural Communication: Exploring the Chinese Ghost Festival Together

Cross-Cultural Communication: Exploring the Chinese Ghost Festival Together

The Ghost Festival, known as the Yu Lan Festival or Zhongyuan Festival, originated in ancient Han China. It falls on the 15th day of the lunar seventh month each year, and people prepare offerings to pray for peace. Initially, it was a festival to give thanks to the earth, where farmers would worship the God of the Fields, report their harvest, and express gratitude for the blessings of their ancestors.

Over time, the Ghost Festival incorporated elements from Taoism and Buddhism, giving rise to the customs and legends we observe today. Among these, there is a story that tells of a filial son named Shun. He was known for his devotion to his parents and the care he provided to his younger brother, eventually ascending to become the Earth Judge. The birthday of the Earth Judge coincides with the 15th day of the lunar seventh month, which is the Hungry Ghost Festival. On this day, people offer prayers to Shun, seeking peace and paying respects to wandering spirits and lost souls.

Zhongyuan Festival


From the moment we are born into this world, the ever-present challenge we face each day is the reality of death, and our fear of it largely stems from confronting the unknown... On the date the gate to the Underworld is opened, it is believed to be a gateway to the afterlife, allowing spirits to return to the human realm. People Many people view this day as a chance to connect with their deceased loved ones and express their love and memories. In honor of this day, families often prepare offerings like food, fruit, and lanterns as a way of being respected and longing.

 The Ghost Festival features two main activities:

Pu-Du, to release souls from purgatory, can be considered the most grandiose customary event during Ghost Month. The worship sequence involves paying homage to deities, ancestors, and loved ones. Typically, the worship of God takes place in the morning, while ancestor worship must be completed before noon. As for the offerings, they vary depending on the recipient. For instance, when worshiping spirits, in addition to the three offerings and fruits, there is a special requirement to prepare a 'clean basin and towel'.

 The second major tradition: releasing water lanterns. It is believed that the custom of releasing water lanterns originates from Buddhism and was first documented in the history of the Tang Dynasty. It gradually gained popularity during the Song Dynasty and eventually became a fixed folk activity during the Ghost Festival in the Ming Dynasty. The significance of releasing water lanterns is related to 'delivering and aiding departed souls.' According to one interpretation, it is meant to inform and guide lonely spirits and wandering ghosts on the water to participate in the Ghost Festival, allowing them to partake in the offerings and alleviate their hunger.

 Various Asian countries celebrate the Yulan Festival, each with its unique cultural rituals. Unlike Taiwan's specific traditional customs, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and India celebrate the festival in their own way. In Japan, people welcome ancestral spirits by placing vessels with ignited fires at doorsteps, followed by a thorough cleansing of home altars and grave sites before performing a 'sending-off fire.' In Vietnam, the festival is known as the 'Month of Filial Piety,' where families prepare sweet soups and sticky rice to honor their deceased loved ones. It is also a time to express filial piety and respect towards parents, especially mothers, as a symbol of affection and warmth. An unconventional offering of betel nut is significant as a symbol of love and friendliness.

 Embark on a journey with Berlitz Taiwan to explore diverse traditional cultures. Let's delve deeper into understanding and respecting these distinct cultural traditions, thus strengthening our connections in this global village.