Although this festival is not celebrated in mainland China as it once was, the Festival of the Hungry Ghost was a time when ghosts that cannot rest were appeased so they would not turn from wondering ghosts to malevolent demons. By remembering dead family members and paying tribute to them, it is believed that they will not intrude on daily life or cause misfortunes or bad luck.
One legend says that Mu Lian told his mother he wanted to be a Buddhist monk and left home. Years later, he returned to discover that she had died. He knew that his mother had done bad things in his life and was probably in hell. Since his mother had no one to feed her, she had to be hungry so he offered food to her hungry ghost but the food didn’t reach her.
To solve the problem, Mu Lian was told by his Buddhist master to become a vegetarian and perform spiritual deeds. After following this advice, on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, he saved his mother from hell and she was no longer a hungry ghost.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.
Sign up for an RSS Feed for iLook China