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Chinese Ghost Culture

There are many ghosts in Chinese culture; they have been worshipped by the Chinese for a few thousand years. Even Confucius said, "Respect ghosts and gods, but keep away from them."

While many people believe in ghosts, there are others who don't. The Chinese people often say, "If you believe it, there will be, but if you don't, there will not."

The ghost is a classical image in Chinese culture, i.e., the young woman whose face is covered by long black hair, who dies due to misfortune, then comes back for revenge.

The word "ghost" for many Chinese conjures up similar images. Often the ghost is a beautiful young woman. The sudden switch from a beautiful girl to a frightening ghost is striking. The seemingly fragile, helpless and beautiful women turning into fearless killers is a favorite theme among Asian movie directors and storywriters.

Chinese Ghost Festival

Just as the West features Halloween for ghosts and ghouls, the Chinese have a holiday to honor the departed spirits of the underworld -- the Chinese Ghost Festival. It is said that ghosts roam the world every year for one lunar month. In some areas of China, visitors can see small roadside fires, where believers burn paper money and other offerings to appease the restless spirits that have temporarily been released from Hades.

The Chinese Ghost Festival is also called "Half July" (Lunar). It is a popular occasion celebrated throughout China on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month.

Historically, families offer sacrifices of the newly harvested grain to departed ancestors on this day, which also coincides with the Buddhist Ullambana (Deliverance) Festival and the Taoist Chinese Ghost Festival. Since each of these traditions in some way honors the spirits of the departed, the seventh lunar month has come to be known as "Ghost Month" and is a time when the "Good Brethren" (ghosts from the underworld) come back to earth to feast on the victuals offered by the living. Over time the Ullambana Festival and Ghost Festival have melded together to become the present-day Chung Yuan Putu or "Mid-origin Passage to Universal Salvation."

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