August 29th, 2008
A letter from Dalry, Malacca, Malaysia
My what a lively forum the Copley web page presents. Great stuff! Considering recent events in which some of you at Copley have participated it seems appropriate to comment on local activities here in Malaysia. Enjoy!
Every year, during the seventh month of the Chinese Calendar, it is believed that the Gates of Hell are opened and all Hell beings (actually only those who are well-behaved) will be set free to roam at will on Earth for a month. In this month, many spirits roam the world in search of their past memories to fulfil unforgotten attachments. As such, these are called the “hungry ghosts” and the festival is also called the Hungry Ghost Festival.
The Hungry Ghosts festival which has been followed in china since the Liang dynasty
502-557 AD, occurs on the 15th night of the 7th Lunar month which falls on the 15th of August this year, and ends September 15th.
On the night of the 15th at the Chinese temple next door they prepared a long pit in which they burned an enormous amount of paper money for the use of the ghosts. A great deal of beautifully arranged food was also laid out on tables under cover, and much incense was burnt.
In Chinese tradition, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (??), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. During the Qingming Festival the living descendants pay homage to their ancestors and on Ghost Day, the deceased visit the living. On the thirteenth day the three realms of Heaven, Hell and the realm of theliving 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 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 former includes paying respects to all deceased, including the same and younger generations, while the latter 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. The Ghost Festival shares some similarities with the predominantly Mexican observance
of El Día de los Muertos. Due to theme of ghosts and spirits, the festival is sometimes also known as the Chinese Halloween.
Warm Warm Warm greetings from Malacca
heart to heart