Monday, September 8, 2008

Ghost Festival

The Ghost Festival is a traditional festival and holiday, which is celebrated by Chinese in many countries. In the Chinese calendar , the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month.

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 s, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the . 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 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 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 ''''. Due to theme of ghosts and spirits, the festival is sometimes also known as the Chinese Halloween, though many have debated the difference between the two.

Buddhist Ghost Festival: ''Ullambana''

Both Chinese Buddhists and Taoists claim that the Ghost Festival originated with their religion but its roots are probably in Chinese folk religion and antedates both religions . In the Tang Dynasty, the Buddhist festival ''Ullambana'' and the Ghost Festival were mixed and celebrated together.

Ullambana origin

The Buddha's joyful day

To Buddhists, the seventh lunar month is a month of joy. This is because the fifteenth day of the seventh month is often known as the Buddha's joyful day and the day of rejoice for monks. The origins of the Buddha's joyful day can be found in various scriptures. When the Buddha was alive, his disciples meditated in the forests of India during the rainy season of summer. Three months later, on the fifteen day of the seventh month, they would emerge from the forests to celebrate the completion of their meditation and report their progress to the Buddha. In the Ullambana Sutra, the Buddha instructs his disciple Maudgalyāyana on how to obtain liberation for his mother, who had been reborn into a lower realm, by making food offerings to the sangha on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Because the number of monks who attained enlightenment during that period was high, the Buddha was very pleased.

Mahāmaudgalyāyana saves his mother from hell

The Buddhist origins of the festival can be traced back to a story that originally came from India, but later took on culturally Chinese overtones. In the ''Ullambana Sutra'', there is a descriptive account of a Buddhist monk named , originally a brahmin youth who later ordained, and later becoming one of the Buddha's chief disciples. Mahāmaudgalyāyana was also known for having clairvoyant powers, an uncommon trait amongst monks.

After he attained arhatship, he began to think deeply of his parents, and wondered what happened to them. He used his clairvoyance to see where they were reborn and found his father in the heavenly realms i.e the realm of the gods. However, his mother had been reborn in a lower realm, known as the Realm of . His mother took on the form of a hungry ghost – so called because it could not eat due to its highly thin & fragile throat in which no food could pass through, yet it was always hungry because it had a fat belly. His mother had been greedy with the money he left her. He had instructed her to kindly host any Buddhist monks that ever came her way, but instead she withheld her kindness and her money. It was for this reason she was reborn in the realm of hungry ghosts.

Mahāmaudgalyāyana eased his mother's suffering by receiving the instructions of feeding pretas from the . The Buddha instructed Mahāmaudgalyāyana to place pieces of food on a clean plate, reciting a mantra seven times, snap his fingers then tip the food on clean ground. By doing so, the preta's hunger was relieved and through these merits, his mother was reborn as a dog under the care of a noble family.

Mahāmaudgalyāyana also sought the Buddha's advice to help his mother gain a human birth. The Buddha established a day after the traditional summer retreat on which Mahāmaudgalyāyana was to offer food and robes to 500 bhikkhus. Through the merits created, Mahāmaudgalyāyana's mother finally gained a human birth.

Due to Confucian influence, the offering became directed towards ancestors rather than the Sangha and ancestor worship has replaced the simple ritual of relieving the hunger of pretas. However, most Buddhist temples still continue the ancient practice of donating to the Sangha as well as to perform rituals for the hungry ghosts.

A difference between the two festivals

Chinese Buddhists often say that there is a difference between Ullambana and the traditional Chinese ''Zhongyuan Jie'', usually saying people have mixed superstitions and delusional thoughts, rather than think that Ullambana is actually a time of happiness. This time of happiness is sometimes used as a reason for the festival to be called as the Chinese Halloween.

Japan: ''Chūgen''

Chūgen , also Ochūgen , is an annual event in Japan on July 15th when people give gifts to one's superiors and acquaintances. One of the three days that form the of Daoism, it is sometimes considered a Zassetsu in the Japanese calendar. Originally it was an annual event for giving gifts to the ancestral spirits.


''O-bon'', or simply ''Bon'', is the Japanese version of the Ghost Festival. It has since been transformed over time into a family reunion holiday during which people from the big cities return to their home towns and visit and clean their ancestors' graves.

Traditionally including a dance festival, it has existed in Japan for more than 500 years. It is held from 13th of July to the 16th in the eastern part of Japan , and in August in the western part .

Vietnam: "Tết Trung Nguyên"

This festival is the chance for pardoning guilty ghosts which are homeless and not be taken care of. People worship ghosts and liberate animals, such as birds or fish.

Influenced by Buddhism, this holiday is also the ''Vu Lan'' festival,the Vietnamese transliteration for Ullambana. The festival is also considered Mother's Day. People with living mothers would be thankful, while people with dead mothers would pray for their souls.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a popular East Asian celebration of abundance and togetherness, dating back over 3,000 years to China's Zhou Dynasty. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar , a date that parallels the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar. This is the ideal time, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, to celebrate the abundance of the summer's harvest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar , and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:
* Eating moon cakes outside under the moon
* Putting pomelo rinds on one's head
* Carrying brightly lit lanterns
* Burning incense in reverence to deities including
* Planting Mid-Autumn trees
* Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members
* Lighting lanterns on towers
* Fire Dragon Dances
Shops selling mooncakes, before the festival, often display pictures of floating to the moon.

Stories of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Houyi and Chang'e

While Westerners may talk about the "man in the moon", the Chinese talk about the "woman in the moon". The story of the fateful night when Chang'e was lifted up to the moon, familiar to most Chinese citizens, is a favorite subject of poets. Unlike many in other cultures who personify the moon, Chang'e lives in the moon. Tradition places Houyi and Chang'e around 2170 BC, in the reign of the legendary Emperor Yao, shortly after that of Huang Di.

There are so many variations and adaptations of the Chang'e legend that one can become overwhelmed and utterly confused. However, most legends about Chang'e in Chinese mythology involve some variation of the following elements: Houyi, the Archer; Chang'e, the mythical Moon Goddess of Immortality; an , either benevolent or malevolent; an elixir of life; and the Moon:

Houyi, the archer

There are at least 6 variations to this story where Houyi was an archer.

Version 1:
Houyi himself was an , while Chang'e was a beautiful young girl, working in the Jade Emperor's Palace as the attendant to the , just before her marriage. One day, Houyi aroused the jealousy of the other immortals, who then slandered him before the Jade Emperor. Houyi and his wife, Chang'e, were subsequently banished from heaven, and forced to live by hunting on earth. He became a famous archer.

Now at this time, there were 10 suns, in the form of Three-legged birds, residing in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea; each day one of the sun birds would be rostered to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe the 'mother' of the suns. One day, all 10 of the suns circled together, causing the earth to burn. Emperor Yao, the Emperor of China, commanded Houyi to shoot down all but one of the suns. Upon the completion of his task, the Emperor rewarded Houyi with a pill that granted eternal life, and advised him: "Make no haste to swallow this pill; first prepare yourself with prayer and fasting for a year". Houyi took the pill home and hid it under a rafter, while he began healing his spirit. While Houyi was healing his spirit, Houyi was summoned again by the emperor. Chang'e, noticing a white beam of light beckoning from the rafters, discovered the pill, which she swallowed. Immediately, she found that she could fly. At that moment, Houyi returned home, and, realizing what had happened, began to reprimand her. Chang'e flew out the window into the sky.

Version 2:
The story took place around 2170 BC. The earth had ten suns at that time. They burned the ground. No crops can grow so that people suffered of the infertile. Houyi sympathized to the human, so he decided to shoot down the sun but leave one to benefit the human. After he shot down the suns, he became the hero. He had a beautiful wife names Chang’e, they lived happily together. Houyi had a lot of apprentices; they followed him to learn hunting. One day, on Houyi’s way back home the immortals emperor gave Houyi a pill for granted eternal life as a reward to shot down the sun. He warned Houyi, “Make no haste to swallow the pill.” But Houyi loved Chang’e very much and did not want to leave her, so he gave the pill to Chang’e and let her store the pill in a safe place. Chang’e putted the pill in her jewelry box. But one of Houyi’s prentices Peng discovered this secret. He decided to steal the pill. One day Houyi and other apprentices went to the mountain. Peng pretended he was sick so that he can stay at home. When all the people went to the mountain but Chang’e stayed at home. He intruded in Chang’e’s room and forced her to give him the pill. Chang’e knew she cannot fight over Peng, so she swallowed the pill immediately. After she swallowed the pill, she felt herself was floating in the air and flying far and far away. She did not want to leave her husband, so she stopped at the moon which is closest to the earth. After Houyi knew what happened, he was very angry and painful. He looked up to the night and called Chang’e’s name. He discovered that inside the moon there is a lady’s shadow looks like Chang’e, so he ran and ran and tired to reach the moon. He failed due to the wind.

Version 3:
The earth once had ten suns circling over it, each taking turn to illuminate the earth. One day, however, all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. Houyi, a strong and tyrannical archer, saved the earth by shooting down nine of the suns. He eventually became King, but grew to become a despot.

One day, Houyi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However, his beautiful wife, Chang'e, drank it in order to save the people from the her husband’s rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating, and flew to the moon. Houyi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he did not shoot down the moon.

Version 4:
Another version, however, had it that Chang'e and Houyi were immortals living in heaven. One day, the ten sons of the Jade Emperor transformed into ten suns, causing the earth to scorch. Having failed to order his sons to stop ruining the earth, the Jade Emperor summoned Houyi for help. Houyi, using his legendary archery skills, shot down nine of the sons, but spared one son to be the sun. The Jade Emperor was obviously displeased with Houyi’s solution to save the earth. As punishment, he banished Houyi and Chang'e to live as mere mortals on earth.

Seeing that Chang'e felt extremely miserable over her loss of immortality, Houyi decided to journey on a long, perilous quest to find the pill of immortality so that the couple could be immortals again. At the end of his quest, he met the Queen Mother of the West, who agreed to give him the pill, but warned him that each person would only need half a pill to regain immortality.

Houyi brought the pill home and stored it in a case. He warned Chang'e not to open the case, and then left home for a while. Like Pandora in Greek mythology, Chang'e became curious. She opened up the case and found the pill, just as Houyi was returning home. Nervous that Houyi would catch her, discovering the contents of the case, she accidentally swallowed the entire pill, and started to float into the sky because of the overdose. Although Houyi wanted to shoot her in order to prevent her from floating further, he could not bear to aim the arrow at her. Chang'e kept on floating until she landed on the moon.

While she became lonely on the moon without her husband, she did have company. A jade rabbit, who manufactured elixirs, also lived on the moon.

Version 5:
In a popular school version, Houyi was a lazy boy who did nothing but to practice his archery. He practiced day and night until he became the greatest archer in the world. One day, the ten suns all assembled around the earth. Their presence destroyed all vegetation, and hundreds of thousands were perishing.
The emperor, who was desperate, offered his crown to anyone who could shoot down the suns. Houyi answered his call. He shot down nine of the suns, and as he pulled his bow to shoot the last one, the emperor stopped him. Saying the earth must have one sun.
Houyi then became the emperor. He was pampered to the extent that he wanted to be emperor forever. He called his advisors to look for a way to make him immortal. His advisors found a way.
They found a recipe for the Pill of Immortality. It required 100 adolescent boys to be ground into a biscuit like a pill. Every night he was supposed to grind one boy. On the hundredth night, his wife Chang'e could not bear to watch her husband become the tyrannical dictator for eternity. She prayed to Xi Wang Mu for help. She stole the pill, with Houyi shooting arrows at her, and flew to the moon grabbing a rabbit to keep her company.So the Chinese say that if you look up at the moon to this day you can sometimes see a rabbit making moon cakes.

Version 6
A different version, is that Chang'e was a goddess. She fell in love with a farmer, Houyi, and he fell in love with her, not knowing she was from the heavens up above. Soon he had found out and the gods from heaven were furious of them because it was forbidden for a god or goddess to fall in love with a human. They had a child together but she still had to leave both her beloved husband and child behind during mid-autumn. She would represent the moon, he would represent as the sun and the child would represent as the stars. Taken pity over them, they are only allowed to see each other every mid-autumn.

Houyi, the builder

Houyi, a

The Hare - Jade Rabbit

According to tradition, the Jade Rabbit pounds medicine, together with the lady, Chang'e, for the gods. Others say that the Jade Rabbit is a shape, assumed by Chang'e herself. You may find that the dark areas to the top of the full moon may be construed as the figure of a rabbit. The animal's ears point to the upper right, while at the left are two large circular areas, representing its head and body.

In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men, and begged for food from a fox, a monkey, and a hare. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the hare, empty-handed, jumped into a blazing fire to offer his own flesh instead. The sages were so touched by the hare's sacrifice and act of kindness that they let him live in the Moon Palace, where he became the "Jade Rabbit".

Overthrow of Mongol rule

According to a widespread folk tale , the Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty in the 14th century. As group gatherings were banned, it was impossible to make plans for a rebellion.

In Vietnam, Mooncakes are typically square rather than round, though round ones do exist.
Besides the indigenous tale of the banyan tree, other legends are widely told including the story of the Moon Lady, and the story of the carp who wanted to become a dragon.


The moon festival will occur on these days in coming years:

* 2008: September 14
* 2009: October 3
* 2010: September 22
* 2011: September 12
* 2012: September 30
* 2013: September 19
* 2014: September 8
* 2015: September 27
* 2016: September 15
* 2017: October 4
* 2018: September 24

Double Ninth Festival

The Double Ninth Festival , observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar , is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the East Han period .

According to the ''I Ching'', ''nine'' is the number; the ninth day of the ninth lunar month has too much '''' and is thus a potentially dangerous date. Hence, the day is also called "Double Yang Festival" . To protect against the danger, it is customary to climb a high mountain, drink chrysanthemum wine, and wear the ''zhuyu'' plant, . Also on this holiday, some Chinese also visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects.

In 1966, the Republic of China rededicated the holiday as "Senior Citizens' Day" , underscoring one custom as it is observed in China, where the festival is also an opportunity to care for and appreciate the elderly.

Double Ninth may have originated as a day to drive away danger, but like the Chinese New Year, over time it became a day of celebration. In contemporary times it is an occasion for hiking and chrysanthemum appreciation. Stores sell rice cakes inserted with mini colorful flags to represent ''zhuyu''. Most people drink chrysanthemum tea, while a few strict traditionalists drink homemade chrysanthemum wine. Children in school learn poems about chrysanthemums, and many localities host a chrysanthemum exhibit. Mountain climbing races are also popular; winners get to wear a wreath made of ''zhuyu''.

This is an often-quoted poem about the holiday:

"Double Ninth, Missing My Shandong Brothers" -


《》 王維


:As a lonely stranger in the strange land,
:Every holiday the homesickness amplifies.
:Knowing that my brothers have reached the peak,
:All but one is present at the planting of ''zhuyu''.

Laba Festival

Laba Festival

Dongzhi Festival

The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest; ''i.e.'', on the first day of the Dongzhi solar term

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching '''' .

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers is the making and eating of ''Tangyuan'' or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. ''Tangyuan'' are made of glutinuous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large ''Tang Yuan'' in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl.

In northern China, people typically eat dumplings on Dongzhi. It is said to have originated from Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty. On one cold winter day, he saw the poor suffering from chilblains on their ears. Feeling sympathetic, he ordered his apprentices to make dumplings with lamb and other ingredients, and distribute them among the poor to keep them warm, to keep their ears from getting chilblains. Since the dumplings were shaped like ears, Zhang named the dish "qǜ hán jiāo ěr tāng" or dumpling soup that expels the cold. From that time on, it has been a tradition to eat dumplings on the day of Dongzhi.

Labour Day

Labour Day is an holiday celebrated all over the world that resulted from efforts of the movement, to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. The majority of countries celebrate Labour Day on May 1, and it is popularly known as May Day and International Workers' Day.

The celebration of Labour Day has its origins in the eight hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

Labour Days on the First of May

Most countries celebrate Labour Day on May 1, known as May Day and International Workers' Day. In Europe the day has older significance as a rural festival which is predominantly more important than that of the Labour Day movement. The holiday has become internationalised and several countries hold multi-day celebrations including parades, shows and other patriotic and labour-oriented events. However, in Northern Europe, Walpurgis Night is celebrated on the preceding night and this holiday merges with the Labour Day in some countries.

May 1 is a national holiday in Albania, Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria,Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, México, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, , the Philippines , Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Serbia, Sweden, Syria, Thailand,Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

In Slovenia, Serbia, Russia and Ukraine, May 2 is also a national holiday.

In , while May 1 is a national holiday, it was renamed from Labour Day to simply "State Holiday" in 1990.


May 1 is a national holiday in Albania, commemorating the Workers' Movement. During Socialist Albania, the organized pompous parades on the main boulevard of Tirana. Since the collapse of communism, however, unions organize occasional peaceful protests.


Celebrating the Australian labour movement, the Labour Day public holiday is fixed by the various governments, and so varies considerably. It is the first Monday in October in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. In both and Tasmania, it is the second Monday in March . In Western Australia, Labour Day is the first Monday in March. In both Queensland and the Northern Territory, it is the first Monday in May.

The Bahamas

Labour Day is celebrated on the first Friday in June, and is a public holiday.


Labour Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September in Canada since the 1880s. The origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to April 14, 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union's strike for a 58-hour work-week. The Toronto Trades Assembly called its 27 unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25. As its name suggests, the day was used to celebrate the British Empire and England, complete with flag-raising ceremonies and the singing of patriotic songs.

In 1961, Jamaican Chief Minister Norman Washington Manley proposed the replacement of Empire Day with Labour Day, a celebration in commemoration of May 23, 1938, when Alexander Bustamante led a leading to Jamaican independence.

Until May 23, 1971, Labour Day was primarily a trade unions celebration with public rallies and marches..

The United States

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday that takes place on the first Monday of September.

National Day of the People's Republic of China

The National Day of the People's Republic of China is October 1. It is a to celebrate its national day.

The PRC was founded on October 1, 1949 with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square. The Central People's Government passed the ''Resolution on the National Day of the People's Republic of China'' on December 2, 1949 and declared that October 1 is the National Day.

The National Day marks the start of one of the two in the PRC. However, there have been some recent over whether Golden Weeks should be kept.

The National Day is celebrated throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau with a variety of government-organised festivities, including fireworks and concerts. Public places, such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, are decorated in a festive theme. Portraits of revered leaders, such as Sun Yat-Sen, are publicly displayed.

When the anniversary is a multiple of five , large scale official celebrations may be held, including an inspection of troops on Tiananmen Square. More notable of these events included Deng Xiaoping's inspection in 1984 and Jiang Zemin's inspection in 1999.

Firework display

A firework display is usually held nationwide in all cities, including Hong Kong, where a firework display to celebrate the National Day of the People's Republic of China has been held since 1997 at Victoria Harbour in the evening.