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Hong Kong’s government blames “social incidents” for tipping the economy into a deep recession
In the past few months, shopping malls, restaurants, and amusement parks in protest-hit Hong Kong have felt like virtual ghost towns. New data released today confirms that the city’s economy is indeed in its worst state since the global financial crisis a decade ago.
According to preliminary government figures , Hong Kong’s economy fell into recession in the third quarter of this year, shrinking 3.2% from the previous quarter and 2.9% from a year earlier. This was the second consecutive quarter of contraction, meaning that the economy has fallen into the commonly held definition of recession.
In addition to blaming the broader global economic slowdown and the US-China trade war, in a statement the Hong Kong government also attributed the downturn to “local social incidents,” referring to the protests that have racked the city since mid-June and which show no signs of abating. The government said that the “large-scale demonstrations” have affected consumer sentiment, with private consumption falling 3.5% in the quarter from a year ago, compared with a 1.3% increase in the previous quarter.
Inbound tourism and exports have also been hit hard, with visitors from mainland China, who are typically also huge consumers of luxury goods, nosediving . Prior to the global financial crisis, the last time the city’s tourism industry took such a severe hit was during the 2003 outbreak of the SARS virus.
The large-scale shutdown of the city’s subway network has exacerbated its deepening economic malaise. With the subway system closing as early as 8pm some nights, people have rushed to catch the last train home rather than staying out for dinner or a movie. The subway operator has defended its actions, citing security concerns after some protesters started vandalizing stations in anger at what they say is collusion between the company and the police to suppress protests.
A number of major events have been canceled as a result of the unrest, including sports competitions such as the Hong Kong Tennis Open and the Hong Kong Squash Open . Carly Rae Jepsen and Trevor Noah both called off scheduled shows in the city. Halloween, traditionally a huge source of income for Hong Kong’s bars, has effectively been canceled , following a ban on face masks enacted almost a month ago and threats by police to suppress any attempt to use the celebration as an excuse for protests.
In a recent policy address, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam rolled out some relief measures , such as transport subsidies and easier access to mortgages in a bid to assuage public anger. However, Alicia García-Herrero, chief Asia-Pacific economist at French bank Natixis pointed out , says Hong Kong’s government has not done enough to diversify its economy away from a reliance on mainland China, and has been reluctant to tap its massive reserves to stimulate an economy slipping into recession. Furthermore, there has been no indication from Lam’s government that it’s ready to present a political solution to quell the months-long unrest.
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10 things you should never do during Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore
Take heed of these rules during this spooky month
Here's a festival unlike any other in Singapore: the Hungry Ghost Festival. Every year, for a month, the Chinese honour the memories of those who have deceased. The Hungry Ghost Festival is much rooted in Buddhist and Taoist culture and happens during the seventh month of the Lunar calendar across fourteen days.
When is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
2023's Hungry Ghost Festival lasts from August 16 to September 14.
What happens during Hungry Ghost Festival?
During the Hungry Ghost Festival, it is believed that the dead return to 'visit' the living – and they can get mischievous if they are not pleased. To satisfy them, various offerings are made including hell money, flashy cars, fancy jewellery, lavish mansions, and even the latest iPhone – all i n paper form of course.
Getai shows are also held all around the island to keep our otherworldly guests entertained. Most of the shows include song and dance performances, Chinese opera, and comedy.
As with other celebrations and festivals in Singapore, there is a list of dos and don'ts we should observe (we're a superstitious lot!) – we unpack the list.
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Things you should never do during Hungry Ghost Festival
Step on offerings
While there are designated areas for burning hell notes and setting up offerings, do watch where you are walking. Sometimes there might be joss sticks or food offerings placed in corners, along the side of footpaths, and under trees. Stepping on these offerings might incur the wrath of the deceased and you wouldn't want to have a hungry and angry ghost following you around for two weeks.
Sit in the first row at getai shows
If you attend a getai show and find the first few rows of seats (aka where the best view is) empty, don't rush to grab a seat. Those seats are left empty for a reason – yep, it's the VIP seating for the dearly departed guests who are in the area visiting the living.
Swim at night
Water bodies, especially the sea, attract spirits. It is believed that the spirits of those who have drowned lurk in the depths, looking to pull the legs of unsuspecting swimmers and drag them into the afterlife to be their companions. If you have no interest in a dead bestie, we advise that you stay away from water bodies during this time.
Turn when someone calls your name at night
Hear your name being called while you're out late at night? Don't turn around. It might just be a wandering spirit up for some giggles. Instead, walk to a well-lit area and just hope it doesn't follow you around (or home).
Sing or whistle
Have a tendency to talk, sing, or whistle to yourself? It's best to cut that habit. In the same way that ghosts are attracted to getai concerts, it's likely they'll be attracted to the sound of your voice. Trust us, that's an audience that you don't need.
Stay out late
Obviously, during a period where there are ghosts roaming the streets, returning home before it gets too dark is ideal. But if you find yourself working overtime, or staying out with friends till the wee hours, it might be wise to stop by a crowded place before you head home. Spirits detest places that are crowded and loud, and it might throw them off for a bit.
Get married or move house
Thinking of getting married or moving house during the Hungry Ghost Festival? Time to change your dates. Doing something auspicious at an inauspicious time is an open invitation for unwanted guests and bad luck.
The older generations believe that flying bugs – usually moths and butterflies – are reincarnations of our ancestors. So if you see a moth in the house on a Hungry Ghost Festival night, it might be wise to not squash or kill it. It's likely just a relative paying a visit.
Hang laundry overnight
Not into sharing your clothes? Then avoid hanging your laundry out too late at night. The human-like shape of clothes is believed to attract spirits – and they may even 'try' them on and leave some negative energy behind in the process.
Cover your forehead
The Chinese believe that 'yang' energy emanates from the forehead. This bright energy is said to keep spirits away, so keeping your forehead uncovered can protect you. Time to cut off those trendy bangs – or at least sweep them up with gel or a hairband when you're out at night.
But do carry jade
Here's one thing you should do: carry jade with you. Jade is not only good for aesthetic purposes but it can also be used as a protective charm for things or beings that you cannot 'see'. Don't own any jade jewellery? Carry around a healing crystal used for protection instead like smoky quartz, tourmaline, obsidian or tiger's eye.
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Zhong Yuan Jie (Hungry Ghost Festival)
Zhong Yuan Jie (中元节), also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, traditionally falls on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. In Singapore, the festival is observed throughout the entire seventh lunar month, which is usually around the month of August of the Western calendar. 1 During this period, many Chinese worship their ancestors and make offerings to wandering souls that roam the earth. 2 Origins and significance The origin and significance of the Hungry Ghost Festival differ between Taoists and Buddhists. Taoists focus on appeasing the wandering souls released from the netherworld, while the emphasis of the Buddhists is filial piety. In Singapore, the festival appears to have been celebrated since the British arrived, being mentioned in the newspapers in as early as 1873. In the 1880s and 1890s, the festival was also known as Sumbayang Hantu (praying to ghosts). 3 According to traditional Taoist beliefs, the fate of mankind is controlled by three deities: Tian Guan Da Di , ruler of heaven, who grants happiness; Di Guan Da Di , ruler of earth, who pardons sins; and Shui Guan Da Di , ruler of water, who alleviates dangers. Shang Yuan Jie , which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month, and Xia Yuan Jie on the 15th day of the tenth lunar month, are the birthdays of the rulers of heaven and water respectively. Zhong Yuan Jie, which falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, is the birthday of Di Guan Da Di , who descends to earth on this day to record the good and evil deeds of each human being. 4 During the seventh lunar month, the gates of hell are open and hungry ghosts are released from the netherworld to wander on earth among humans and look for food. 5 Traditionally during this month, Taoist priests would perform rites and make food offerings, while devotees would visit temples to repent their sins, as well as pray for happiness and avoidance of disasters. 6 Buddhists, on the other hand, have traditionally celebrated the Hungry Ghost Festival as the Yu Lan Pen (盂兰盆) Festival. Yu Lan Pen is a transliteration of the Sanskrit name for the Buddhist Ullambana Festival. Yu lan means to “hang upside down” in Chinese, while pen in this context refers to a container filled with food offerings. 7 Yu lan pen thus refers to a container filled with offerings to save one’s ancestors from being suspended in suffering in purgatory. 8 The festival, which originated from the story of Mu Lian, commemorates his filial piety towards his mother. 9 The legend is also believed to be the origin of the Chinese custom of making offerings and praying for one’s ancestors during this annual festival. 10 Legends Mu Lian According to legend, the Yu Lan Pen Festival originated from the attempt by Mu Lian, a disciple of Buddha, to save his mother from torture in hell. 11 His mother, who was a vegetarian, had consumed meat soup unknowingly, and was condemned to hell for denying it. 12 Mu Lian tried to locate his deceased mother in the netherworld and found her among the hungry ghosts. 13 In one version of the story, Mu Lian tried to feed his starving mother, but the food was grabbed by other hungry ghosts. 14 In another version, he sent her a bowl of rice as an offering, but the food turned into flaming coals before it could enter her mouth. 15 Mu Lian sought help from Buddha, who intervened and taught Mu Lian to make offerings of special prayers and food. Only then was Mu Lian’s mother relieved of her sufferings as a hungry ghost. 16 Dragon King of the Eastern Seas A lesser-known legend on the origin of the Hungry Ghost Festival took place during the Tang Dynasty. The legend is about the Dragon King of the Eastern Seas, who was jealous of Li Liang Feng, a famous fortune teller. When Li boastfully claimed that no one could prove his predictions wrong, the Dragon King was infuriated. To discredit Li, he executed a plan which involved disobeying an order from the King of Heaven. Unfortunately, the plan was exposed and the Dragon King was sentenced to death. 17 The Dragon King then approached Emperor Tang Taizong for help. Feeling sorry for him, the emperor promised to do what he could and devised a plan to help save the Dragon King’s life. The plan, however, did not succeed. Shortly after his death, the Dragon King again sought Emperor Tang out in a dream. He reproached the emperor for not keeping his promise, which resulted in his plight as a wandering spirit. The very next day, which was the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, Emperor Tang ordered all Buddhist and Taoist priests in the capital to offer prayers, as well as food and drink for the Dragon King, and this marked the beginning of the Hungry Ghost Festival. 18 Celebrations While the significance of the Hungry Ghost Festival differs between Taoists and Buddhists, most Singapore Chinese popularly celebrate it in similar ways. 19 Throughout the seventh lunar month, many Chinese observe the festival by making offerings of food, joss sticks, candles, paper money and other paper effigies such as houses, cars and clothes to the dead. 20 As the paper offerings have to be burnt, burning activities in open areas are prevalent, especially on the first, 15th and last day of the festival. For large burnings of paper offerings by associations, a paper effigy of 大士爷 [Da Shi Ye] would be present. The effigy has a small image of Kuan Yin on its forehead as it is commonly believed to be an incarnation of Kuan Yin. 21 To minimise pollution and damage, special containers are provided by the authorities for the burning. 22 It is also a practice in Singapore to hold neighbourhood Zhong Yuan celebrations during the seventh lunar month, which typically include dinners, auctions and stage performances. 23 Participants of these events, many of whom are owners of neighbourhood businesses, make small monthly contributions during the year, and the proceeds are then used to make mass offerings to hungry ghosts during the festival. 24 The offerings usually comprise food items such as rice, oil, canned food, fruits and poles of sugarcane, which are subsequently distributed to participants in buckets. 25 The auction of “auspicious objects”, ranging from religious items to liquor to appliances and toys, usually begins during the multi-course dinner. 26 The most sought-after auction items include charcoal pieces wrapped in gold or yellow paper known as wujin (which means “black gold” in Chinese), “prosperity” incense burners, decorated rice barrels, good-luck tangerines known as daji , as well as statues of deities. 27 The proceeds from these auctions are used to fund the following year’s Zhong Yuan celebrations, as well as donated to temples and charitable organisations. 28 In addition, outdoor performances are held on makeshift stages to entertain both ghosts and humans, with the front row seats left empty for the spirits. Chinese opera or wayang , which used to be a common sight in the past, has over time been gradually replaced by modern Chinese song performances called getai , which means “song stage” in Chinese. 29 Besides Singapore, the Hungry Ghost Festival is also commonly observed in Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 30 The Chinese communities in these three regions observe the festival throughout the seventh lunar month with rituals of prayers and offerings. 31 Like Singapore, the Chinese in Malaysia also celebrate the festival with dinners, auction of auspicious objects, as well as Chinese opera and getai . 32 A highlight of the festival in Hong Kong is the staging of Chinese opera performances in neighbourhoods across the city. 33 In Taiwan, large-scale celebrations are held in various townships and counties. Ceremonies and activities include releasing floating lanterns into the sea; the "grappling with ghosts" event, a competition that requires scaling of heights to be the first to cut down a flag; as well as an annual parade of decorated floats. 34 In China, the festival has become less commonly observed in recent times. It involves prayers, making offerings and floating lanterns on the river on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. 35 Taboos Special care is taken by some to avoid the attention of wandering souls during the seventh lunar month. 36 Such precautions include refraining from going out after dark to avoid bumping into evil spirits, or swimming in case one gets dragged away by “water ghosts”. 37 One should also avoid stepping on or kicking offerings placed along the roadside or peeking under the table of an altar, as these actions may incur the wrath of hungry ghosts. 38 Believers are also warned against wearing red because it is believed that spirits are drawn to the colour. Drugs and alcohol are to be avoided too as some people believe that it is easier for ghosts to possess those who are intoxicated. 39 In addition, believers should keep away from walls as ghosts like to stick to them, and also refrain from cutting hair, shaving and hanging clothes outside of the house during the night. Furthermore, activities such as getting married, moving house and buying new vehicles are discouraged during this period. 40 Variant names Chinese name: Gui Jie , which means “ghost festival” in Chinese. 41 Variant names: Feast for the Wandering Souls, 42 Mid-Year Festival. 43 Author Cheryl Sim References 1. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “Qing Ming Jie (All Souls’ Day),” in Chinese Customs and Festivals in Singapore = Hua ren li su jie ri shou ce (Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 1989), 63. (Call no. RSING 390.08995105957 CHI-[CUS]) 2. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Qing Ming Jie (All Souls’ Day) , 63; “ Zhongyuan Jie (Hungry Ghost Festival) ,” Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 2021. 3. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Zhongyuan Jie (Hungry Ghost Festival) ”; T. Ho Swee, “ Chinese Customs ,” Straits Times Overland Journal , 20 September 1873, 10; “ The Sembayang Hantu ,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser , 24 August 1896, 2. (From NewspaperSG) 4. “ Celebrate Zhongyuan ,” Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association, last retrieved 13 April 2014. 5. Origins of Chinese Festivals , comp. Goh Pei Ki and trans. Koh Kok Kiang (Singapore: Asiapac Books, 2004), 127. (Call no.: RSING 394.26951 FU-[CUS]) 6. Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association, “ Celebrate Zhongyuan ”. 7. Choon San Wong, An Illustrated Cycle of Chinese Festivities in Malaysia and Singapore (Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, 1987), 162. (Call no. RSING 398.33 WON); Tan Huay Peng, Fun with Chinese Festivals (Singapore: Federal Publications, 1991), 70. (Call no. JRSING 394.26951 TAN); Jean DeBernardi, “The Hungry Ghosts Festival: A Convergence of Religion and Politics in the Chinese Community of Penang, Malaysia,” Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science , 12, no. 1 (1984): 25–34. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website) 8. Stephen F. Teiser, “Ghosts and Ancestors in Medieval Chinese Religion: The Yü-lan-p'en Festival as Mortuary Ritual,” History of Religions , 26, no. 1 (August 1986): 48. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website); Gateway to Chinese Culture , trans. Geraldine Chay and Y.N. Han (Singapore: Asiapac Books, 2003), 81. (Call no. RSING 305.8951 GAT) 9. Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 70. 10. Leon Comber, “Ch’ing Ming Festival,” in Through the Bamboo Window: Chinese Life & Culture in 1950s, Singapore & Malaya (Singapore: Talisman, Singapore Heritage Society, 2009), 30. (Call no. RSING 390.08995105951 COM-[CUS]) 11. Wong, An Illustrated Cycle of Chinese Festivities , 162. 12. Wong, An Illustrated Cycle of Chinese Festivities , 162 ; Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 70. 13. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Qing Ming Jie (All Souls’ Day) , 65; Tieser, “Ghosts and Ancestors in Medieval Chinese Religion.” 14. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Zhongyuan Jie (Hungry Ghost Festival) .” 15. Tieser, “Ghosts and Ancestors in Medieval Chinese Religion.” 16. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Qing Ming Jie (All Souls’ Day) ”, 65; Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 70. 17. Comber, “ Ch’ing Ming Festival ,” 30–33. 18. Comber, “ Ch’ing Ming Festival ,” 30–33. 19. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Zhongyuan Jie (Hungry Ghost Festival) 20. Vivian Tan, Feasts and Festivals of Singapore (Singapore: The Educational Publishing House, 1999), 25. (Call no. RSING 394.295957 YEE-[CUS]); Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “ Qing Ming Jie (All Souls’ Day) , 65. 21. Tan, Fun with Chinese festivals , 71; Tan, Feasts and Festivals of Singapore , 25; Chen Kungang 陈坤纲, “ 中元节出现大'威武鬼王' ,” [A big 'Mighty Ghost King' appeared on the Mid-Year Festival], Xin Ming Ri Bao 新明日 报 , 5 September 1994, 8. (From NewspaperSG) 22. Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 71; Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Chinese Customs and Festivals in Singapore , 65. 23. Origins of Chinese Festivals , 132. 24. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Chinese Customs and Festivals in Singapore , 65, 67; Tan, Feasts and Festivals of Singapore , 25. 25. Tan, Feasts and Festivals of Singapore , 74. 26. Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 74; Tan, Feasts and Festivals of Singapore , 25. 27. Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 74; “ More Mandarin Being Used at Seventh Month Auctions ,” Straits Times , 16 October 1989, 17. (From NewspaperSG) 28. Origins of Chinese Festivals , 132. 29. Kwa Chong Guan and Kua Bak Lim, eds., A General History of the Chinese in Singapore (Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 2019), 581 (Call no. RSING 305.895105957 GEN); Kwok Kian-Woon and Teng Siao See, Chinese (Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies; Straits Times Press, 2018), 78 (Call no. RSING 305.895105957 KWO); “ Entertain the Dead, Charm the Living ,” New Paper , 17 August 2007, 11. (From NewspaperSG) 30. Tan Chee Beng, ed., Chinese Food and Foodways in Southeast Asia and Beyond (Singapore: NUS Press, 2011), 28 (Call no. RSEA 394.12089951059 CHI-[CUS]); Tan Chee-Beng, Chinese Overseas: Comparative Cultural Issues (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004), 23. (Call no. RSEA 305.8951 TAN) 31. “ Hungry Ghost Festival Begins Today ,” (2013, August 7). Star Online , 7 August 2013; “ The Hungry Ghost Festival ,” Hong Kong Tourism Board, 2014; Li Fengmao 李丰楙\, Táiwān jiéqìng zhīměi 台湾节庆之美 [The beauty of festivals in Taiwan] (Yilan Xian 宜兰县: Guo li chuan tong yi shu zhong xin 国立传统艺术中心, 2004), 113. (Call no. Chinese R 394.26951249 LFM-[CUS]) 32. “ Hungry Ghost Festival Begins Today ”; J. Chan, (2011, August 26–September 8). “Festival Offerings,” AsiaNews (26 August–8 September 2011). 33. Hong Kong Tourism Board, “ Hungry Ghost Festival .” 34. M. Caltonhill, “Who Let the Ghosts Out? Origins and Practices of Taiwan’s Feeding of the “Good Brethren,” 2013. 35. Wei Liming, Chinese Festivals: Traditions, Customs and Rituals , trans. Yue Liwen and Tao Lang (Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2010), 46–47. (Call no. R 394.26951 WEI-[CUS]) 36. Comber, “ Ch’ing Ming Festival ,” 33. 37. Comber, “ Ch’ing Ming Festival ,” 33; Origins of Chinese Festivals , 132. 38. “Do’s and don’ts during the Hungry Ghost Month,” The Malaysian Times . 15 August 2013. 39. C. Chin, “ When Ghosts See Red ,” AsiaNews (26 August–8 September 2011). 40. Y. H. Bey, “ How to Avoid Meeting Ghosts ,” AsiaNews (26 August–8 September 2011); Origins of Chinese Festivals , 132. 41. Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association, “ Celebrate Zhongyuan ”. 42. Lee Siow Mong, Spectrum of Chinese Culture (Malaysia: Pelanduk Publications, 1986), 171. (Call no. RSING q301.2951 LEE) 43. Tan, Fun with Chinese Festivals , 68. Further resources Evelyn Lip, Chinese Beliefs and Superstitions (Singapore: Graham Brash, 1985). (Call no. RSING 398 LIP)
Guangmingshan Pujue Zen Temple Propaganda Department 光明山普觉禅寺弘法, Fú shuō yú lán pén jīng: Qī yuè shì bùshì guǐ jié? 佛说盂兰盆经: 七月是不是鬼节? [The Buddha speaks the ullambana sutra: Is the 7th Lunar month the ghosts' season?, 2004]. (Xinjiapo 新加坡: Guang ming shan pu jue chan si hong fa bu 光明山普觉禅寺弘法部. (Call no. RSING 294.385 BUD) Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Chinese Heritage (Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 1990). (Call no. RSING 305.895105957 CHI) Stephen F. Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). (Call no. R 294.3438 TEI) The information in this article is valid as at September 2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.
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Hungry ghost festival 2023 explained: burning effigies, incense & food offerings on the streets.
All you need to know about the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 in Singapore so you can explain this traditional Chinese festival to kids. Hungry Ghost Festival is held during the seventh month of the lunar calendar, aka Ghost Month!
The seventh month, August, is when the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 takes place — it officially starts on 16 August 2023. If you’re seeing lots of incense candles and food offerings in your neighbourhood, it’s likely because people are observing Ghost Month. Let’s take a look at what the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 in Singapore is all about.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival (also known as Zhong Yuan Jie 中元节 in Mandarin) and marks the opening of the Gates of Hell where the ghosts or spirits were able to return to Earth. Often called Chinese Ghost Festival, it’s celebrated by Buddhist and Taoist devotees to honour the memories of the deceased.
When is the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
Hungry Ghost Festival takes place traditionally on the 15th night of the 7th month which is sometimes called Chinese Ghost Month. This year, Ghost Day is on Wednesday 30 August 2023.
Traditionally Chinese people believed that the 7th lunar month was plagued with disasters so naturally they feared this month. The general belief is that it is unwise to make major decisions during this time. So ideally you don’t initiate a new business or move into a new house during the 7th month.
Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 Start and End Date
The ‘festivities’ of Hungry Ghost Festival are a month-long affair during the 7th month/Ghost month so the actual start date of Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 is 16 August 2023 and 14 September 2023 is the end date of the Hungry Ghost Festival.
Key Dates: Hungry Ghost Festival and Ghost Day
16 August 2023: the first day of the 7th lunar month: The Hungry Ghost Festival officially starts. It is said that on this day, the gates of hell open, allowing the deceased spirits to pass back into our world. 30 August 2023, is the 15th lunar day: This is Zhong Yuan Jie, also known as “Ghost Day,” when it’s believed that ghosts are most active. It is usual to burn joss paper and feed the ravenous spirits on this day. 14 September 2023: The Hungry Ghost Festival ends on the 29th day of the seventh month. The Gate of Hell is closed and ghosts go back. People offer sacrifices on this day to pray for safety for the rest of the year. *Do note the lunar calendar may change so always double-check dates.
How is the Hungry Ghost Festival Celebrated?
During the Hungry Ghost Festival, the Chinese believe that ghosts and spirits, including deceased ancestors, roam the earth on a kind of ‘vacation’. During this ghost month and particularly on the 15th day, they wander around searching for food and entertainment or visit the living.
As a form of ancestor worship and to appease these spirits, all sorts of offerings are made during the Hungry Ghost Festival, especially on the three main days: the 1 st , 15 th and last day of the 7th month.
Offerings During Ghost Month/ Seventh Month
During Ghost Month (Seventh month) people will burn offerings in special metal cages set up outside housing estates and temples. Items such as paper money, incense candles/joss sticks and elaborate paper effigies of material goods, such as houses, cars, phones and even outfits are burned so the departed can use them in the afterlife. The paper creations are a marvel to see (you can often find them at HDB markets – there are shops offering them at Tiong Bahru market and Chinatown ).
Another important part of the offerings during the Hungry Ghost Festival is food. Those celebrating will leave food on the sidewalk or at temples to satisfy the ghosts’ appetites, appease their deceased family members and in return bring good luck.
What Not to Do During Hungry Ghost Festival 2023
The 7th month is considered an inauspicious month, so there are lots of ‘don’ts’ in order to avoid encountering ‘bad luck’. A few include:
- Don’t move into a new house
- Don’t start a new business
- Don’t stay out late/go out at night
- Don’t disturb the offerings
- Don’t swim (and avoid any water activities)
- Don’t hang your clothes outside to dry too late
- Don’t pick up anything from the ground
- Don’t turn your head when someone calls you
- Don’t wear clothes with your name on it
- Don’t whistle
During the seventh month, some families may get the kids to wear a small red triangular religious pendant (within the pendant are religious papers from the temple) to their shirts to protect them during this month. Some people keep the paper in their wallets and others wear religious bracelets during this time.
Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival Performances
One of the highlights of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore is the colourful performances of Chinese operas and live drama ‘ getai’ performances. Getai used to be a stage for traditional opera and puppet performances, with a majority of songs performed in dialects such as Hokkien. In Singapore, performances for the Hungry Ghost Festival have evolved to include modern pop songs in Chinese and even Korean.
Large tents are set up near housing estates with these performances as well as e-Getai – livestreamed performances online. If you do see any physical shows, visitors are welcome but always ensure you leave the front row of seats empty – those are for the honoured ghosts themselves!
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Hungry Ghost Festival 2022
Discover the rich traditions of Singapore’s Chinese population during The Hungry Ghost Festival, which honours the memories of the deceased.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist culture and happens during the seventh month of the Lunar calendar—take note of the dos and don’ts of the season.
A man conducts traditional Hungry Ghost Festival prayers—a common sight on the streets of Chinatown.
Just as the Americans have Halloween, the Chinese have the Hungry Ghost Festival (also known as Zhong Yuan Jie in Chinese), a festival held in honour of the dearly departed.
According to traditional customs, the souls of the dead are believed to roam the earth during the festival, and these ghosts can get up to mischief if ignored. To prevent this, all sorts of offerings are made during this period, which is the seventh month in the lunar calendar.
Notice those dark-coloured metal bins scattered around residential areas and housing estates?
They are specifically provided to contain the stacks of hell money and paper offerings, such as cars, watches and jewellery, that are burned by relatives to appease their deceased family members—taking care of their material needs even in the afterlife.
Do watch your step in case you trample on food left out in the open. Although many place their food offerings (oranges, rice or even suckling pig) and joss sticks on proper altars, others tuck them at the side of footpaths or trees.
And as if satisfying the ghosts’ appetites for money and food wasn’t enough, taking care of their entertainment is also important.
A mainstay of the festival is the ' getai ' performance, thrown as a popular mode of entertainment for the wandering spirits.
Large tents are set up in open fields to host raucous dinners and auctions in heartland estates like Ang Mo Kio and Yishun. There are performances too, such as Chinese operas and ' getai ' (literally ‘song stage’ in Chinese, or live stage performances), which feature tales of gods and goddesses, bawdy stand-up comedy, as well as song and dance numbers.
'Getai' today is a very different animal—jazzed up with snazzy LED panel lit stages. Young perfomers sing both traditional songs in dialect and thumping techno versions of English and Mandarin pop ditties. It appears that even the tastes of the spiritual world are moving with the times.
Everyone is welcome—so sit back and enjoy the show. Just remember not to sit in the front row, unless you want to rub shoulders with the ‘special guests’.
Where to Go
Asia Paranormal Investigators
Founded in 2005, the Asia Paranormal Investigators (API) is a paranormal research society based in Singapore that strives to analyze any strange occurrences happening in Singapore and around the region.
Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore: Origins, superstitions, and supernatural stories
The Ghost Month, or as it’s more popularly known, the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a Taoist and Buddhist festival. It traditionally falls on the 15th (or 14th in some places) night of the seventh month in Chinese calendars. The whole month is regarded as ghostly when spirits are believed to come out from the underworlds and realms beyond. Curious to know more? Keep reading as we explain the origins of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore, including the superstitions and supernatural stories associated with it.
The Hungry Ghost Festival shouldn’t be confused with the Ching Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day in April. Also, don’t mix it up with the Double Ninth or Cheung Yeung Festival in autumn. Despite being a significant occasion in Singapore, the day of the Hungry Ghost Festival is not a public holiday. It’s still observed with food offerings, incense and joss paper burning, opera performances, and other festivities.
Origins of the Hungry Ghost Festival
There are a few origin stories for the Ghost Festival. The Yulanpen Sutra , an ancient Indian Buddhist account, recounts how Maudgalyayana (one of the Buddha’s closest disciples) found his deceased mother in the Hungry Ghost (preta) realm. A vegetarian, his mother had accidentally consumed soup made with meat. So, she ended up being sentenced to hell.
Maudgalyayana sought help from the Buddha, who advised him to offer food on the preta’s behalf to the monastic community. This act would allow former pretas to be reborn and released from suffering.
In Taoism, the festival serves as a judgment day for ghosts. Falling on Lord Qingxu’s birthday (the earth’s celestial official), the deity is believed to gather all spirits together and sift through their records. Then, they decide who will be forgiven and who will be punished.
Superstitions observed during Hungry Ghost Festival
The Hungry Ghost Festival falls during the full moon and the beginning of the new season. It is thought that the gates of both heaven and hell open up, leaving spirits free to roam our world.
Some are lost souls including ancestors of the living who weren’t given an adequate burial or send-off, were treated badly when alive or were simply forgotten after death. To appease the restless souls, believers stick to these practices.
- Making food offerings to keep the spirits well-fed
- Burning joss paper
- Keeping all clothes inside the house at night. Clothes hanging outside are bound to be borrowed by spirits who may leave behind negative energy
- Making sure to close your doors and windows
- Keeping the lights on
- Visiting a Chinese opera performance but making sure to not sit in an empty seat reserved for the dead
- Avoiding swimming as the spirit of a vengeful person who drowned may pull them under
- Avoiding the last round of transport at night
- Refraining from wearing a lot of black or red coloured clothing as it attracts spirits
- Keeping photo taking to the minimum
- Avoiding events such as moving into a new home, getting married, or starting a new business on the day
- Avoiding sticking your chopsticks into your bowl of food vertically as it represents incense for the dead
- Avoiding whistling or singing when you’re walking alone at night as ghosts and spirits are attracted to such sounds, and may take it as an invitation to follow or interact with you
- Avoiding disturbing any offerings on the ground as doing so will anger the spirits
Supernatural stories relating to the Hungry Ghost Festival
There are plenty of chilling tales for Halloween and Hungry Ghost festival month. Believers choose to stay away from these spooky spots during this time, but many also indulge in some ghost-hunting as the gates of the underworld open.
This stream pool and waterfall spot in Hong Kong’s New Territories is popular for its picturesque hike. Legends say that a bride was being carried to her wedding in a sedan chair by porters when one slipped on the rocks above the waterfall causing her to fall into the pool below. Tragically, her heavy wedding wear weighed her down and she drowned. Her spirit (often spotted dressed in the red cheongsam) lurks in the waters, waiting to drown unsuspecting visitors. So, be careful on Bride’s Pool Road as it’s known for tricky bends, blind spots, and the many accidents that have taken place on it.
Seven Sisters (Tsat Tsz Mui)
This neighbourhood east of North Point was formerly home to a Hakka village and beach. Its name comes from an urban legend, Tsat Tsz Mui, which means “seven sisters” in Cantonese. According to the story, seven girls once pledged to be sisters for eternity and vowed never to get married. They even tied their hair into buns to mark themselves as spinsters.
But their families had other plans, betrothing the third sister. Refusing to break her vow, she makes a plan to kill herself. When the other sisters learn of her intentions, they join her. So, they all jumped into the sea the day before the wedding together. As the myth goes, the bodies were never found, but seven boulders appeared the next day along the coastline. Villagers believed they were the seven girls, so the area was renamed Tsat Tsz Mui.
In 1911, a swimming shed was built in the area. But many believe it remains haunted, with frequent tales of men drowning. The former coastline was extended to the one we know today, and the village was gradually replaced with public housing estates and buildings.
Single Braid Road
The Chinese University of Hong Kong is home to more than one supernatural story. The most well-known is the legend of the braided ghost girl. There are many versions of the tale, but its victims remain the same—male university students.
Legend has it that a beautiful girl was eloping with her lover from the mainland to Hong Kong. Some versions say the couple had an argument; others say they were fearful of being stopped by immigration officers at Kowloon . So, they decided to leap from the carriage to avoid being caught. But whatever the reasoning, the girl jumped alone from her carriage as the train went past the university campus. Her hair blew in the wind and a single braid was caught in the door of the train, ripping her hair and skin. Now, her faceless ghost roams the campus, haunting male students.
This Victorian-era building stands in Stanley now, but it was originally built in 1846 in Central. Before being painstakingly relocated, Murray House literally had a murky history to exorcise. The building was first an officer’s quarter, then occupied by the Japanese and used as a command centre in the Second World War. Finally, it became an office building, and the government employees believed ghosts haunted the house. It was the detention centre and execution area for some Chinese citizens in the war, after all. The building was exorcised twice.
On May 19, 1963, about 90 Buddhist monks pacified the spirits in a 10-hour ritual complete with tablet burning. The building was exorcised once more in 1974 in a televised ceremony. Today there are few reports of ghosts, but you never know…
All image credit: Cheryl Chan /Flickr
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Hungry Ghost Festival a public holiday in Singapore? – Hungry Ghost Festival is not a public holiday in Singapore. What is the purpose of the Hungry Ghost Festival?
– The Hungry Ghost Festival commemorates the legend of Mu Lian and his loyalty to his mother. This is also where the practice of making offerrings and praying to deceased ancestors is believed to have come from.
When is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
– The Hungry Ghost Festival falls on the 15th (or 14th in some places) night of the seventh month in Chinese calendars.
History graduate and poetry person, Sakina is a recovering journalism student currently in editorial. You are most likely to find her hunting down new eats on Instagram (halal please!) and lusting after Korean skincare drops.
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What to expect at hungry ghost festival 2023 in singapore.
by: The Beat Asia
August 08, 2023
Every seventh month of the Lunar calendar, Chinese people believe that the Gates of Hell opens, letting the spirits of their ancestors roam around the living realm. They call this the “Ghost Month,” and pay respect to the ancestral spirits in a festival called the “ Hungry Ghost Festival .” During this, they prepare food offerings, perform rituals, and follow traditions, among other activities.
In Singapore, the festival will kick off on Aug. 16 this year, also referred to as the first day of the seventh lunar month, and end on Sept. 14. While the festival is celebrated solemnly, you can still expect lively activities and traditions to be carried out throughout the occasion. Here are some of the things you can expect at this year’s event.
In Singapore, among the most prominent traditions during the festival are the live performances, also known as “Getai.” These are believed to be for the ancestral spirits’ entertainment, and can range from Chinese dramas, song or dance performances to puppet shows and comedic skits.
One unique thing about these concerts is that the front row seats should be left empty, as they are reserved for special guests: the spirits. If you’re visiting Singapore during this period, you can see large tents set up around the city with temporary stages, where these performances are held. However, always remember to never sit at the front! According to beliefs, taking these special seats can cause sickness.
For those who don’t prefer to watch physically, these performances are also livestreamed online.
Incense, Joss Papers, and Lanterns
Just like any other festival, people celebrating the Ghost Month also follow various traditions to keep good fortune coming. On the 15th lunar day of the month, or “Ghost Day,” which is on Aug. 30, it is a tradition to burn joss papers (also known as ghost money) and incense to feed the deceased. Another practice is to float paper lanterns down a river, which is believed to help lead the ghosts to their homes or to reincarnation.
To appease the “hungry ghosts,” one of the most effective ways is through delighting them with food offerings, most especially those that are associated with good fortune. This includes oranges, sticky rice dumplings (usually in pink colour), and peanuts.
Singaporeans usually put these in a makeshift altar, where they perform appeasement ceremonies for the ghosts. Of course, this wouldn’t be complete without celebratory staple foods, such as rice and meat, as well as wines and teas. They even put bags of salt and sugar on their altars.
Superstitions and Beliefs
The Hungry Ghost Festival can be quite ominous, so you can expect numerous dos and don’ts that you need to follow. One thing is to avoid “encountering” the spirits so as not to attract bad luck. A few ways you can do this are to avoid staying out late at night, avoid wearing red and black clothes, and staying away from bodies of water.
During the festival, people are also advised to avoid making big life decisions, such as moving to a new home, holding a wedding, or putting up a business. Doing these is believed to lead to unpleasant outcomes, such as inviting unwanted spirits in your new home, having uninvited guests to your wedding, or your business failing.
Here are some other things you should steer clear of:
- Walking near walls or standing against them
- Watching scary movies
- Hanging your clothes outside during the night
- Whistling, talking, or singing at night
- Picking up things on the street
Get the latest curated content with The Beat Asia's newsletters. Sign up now for a weekly dose of the best stories, events, and deals delivered straight to your inbox. Don't miss out! Click here to subscribe .