Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hungry Ghost Festival


Today is the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar and is called the Hungry Ghost Festival as the realms of heaven and hell are open to the living and ghosts return to visit their families. Rituals are performed to absolve the sins of the ancestors and food left out for visiting ghosts. The festival originates from the story of one of Buddha's disciples, Mahamaudgalyayana, who was a clairvoyant and sought out the spirits of his parents. He found his father's spirit in heaven but his mother had been sent to the realm of the hungry ghosts as punishment for her greed in life. The hungry ghosts had thin delicate throats through which no food could be swallowed but their bellies were large and so they were always hungry. The Buddha told Mahamaudgalyayana to feed his mother's ghost with food which had been prayed over seven times and thrown on clean ground. In this way she escaped from the realm of the hungry ghosts and was reborn as a dog belonging to a noble family.

7 Comments:

OpenID janetwilliams said...

Another version:
Mahamaudgalyayana's mother was thrown into the 18th layer of hell, which is the deepest. (How many layers according to Dante?)
The son's filial piety touched Buddha, who gave him a lotus flower to bring to his mother, which could forever satisfy her hunger. Yet, when the lotus flower reached her mouth, it turned into flames -- her sins were so grave that even the holy lotus flower couldn't save her.
The son continued to show his filial piety by feeding wandering ghosts and living people on he 15th of the 7th month, and his mother's sins were subsequently forgiven and she re-incarnated as a human being again.

p/s: There is a common phrase 'someone will fall into the 18 layered hell/ the 18th layer of hell. Now you know why.)

8:30 pm  
OpenID janetwilliams said...

Ghost is 'gui'.

A Chinese person called a hungry person 'E gui'.

An alcoholic 'Jiu gui'.

A gambler 'Du gui'.

Husband (positively or negatively or affectionately) 'Si gui' (dead ghost).

A westerner (especially caucasian) 'Gui lao' (old foreign ghost)

8:40 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Welcome back, Janet and thank you for those illuminating points. "Jiu" is "wine", isn't it? What does "du" mean?

9:55 pm  
OpenID janetwilliams said...

Jiu 酒 (3rd tone, ie, fall-rise) is alcohol in general. Radical (main componant) as 'water', 3 drops on the left.

Du 赌(3rd tone) is gambling. The character therefore shows 'shell' radical on the left to indicate money.

E 饿(4th tone) means hungry. Pronounced like the 'ur' in 'urban'. Radical is 'food' on the left.

This is gui (3rd tone) 鬼 -- doesn't this character look a bit scary in itself? Look like the picture you showed.

7:26 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

That's interesting...my Mandarin is rudimentary and the only character I know is China. The make-up of the characters is fascinating and perhaps that is why translation can be ambiguous.

8:05 am  
OpenID minniebeaniste said...

Fascinating post, WW. Love the variety and introductions to new worlds (to me) on your blog.

8:22 am  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Interesting to learn the origin of the Festival, WW.

11:44 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home