Zhongyuan Jie (Hungry Ghost Festival)


Zhongyuan Jie is popularly referred to in Singapore as the festival of the hungry ghosts.

Taoists believe that the gate of hell is open during the seventh lunar month. Hence many families would make offerings to their dead ancestors on the first and last days of the month. In the early days of Singapore when many immigrants died without having their families around them, there was no one to make offerings or bum joss paper (hell money) to them. So many families started the practice of burning joss paper to these "hungry ghosts" to appease them.

In addition, "zhongyuan pudu" (mass prayers and offerings) are organized by community residents or trade bodies for these wandering souls. Very often the "pudu" would include an opera or “getai” show, a dinner for the members of the area and an auction of "fuwu" (blessed items). Traditionally, the money collected from the auction would be used to help cover the expenses of the  "pudu" . However, in more recent times, a part of the money collected has been donated to charitable organizations. 

Among the Buddhists Zhongyuan festival fails on the 15th day of the seventh month. It is also known as the "yuianperi' festival.

The festival origin is traced to Mulian, a filial son whose dead mother was perpetually starving in hell. Mulian's mother appeared in his dream to tell him of her plight. The filial Mulian decided to go in search of his mother in the nether world. After much hardships he finally found his mother, but every time he tried to feed her, his food was snatched by the hungry ghosts. Mulian turned to Buddha for help and the latter taught him the "yuianperf" scripture and directed him to offer fresh fruits and vegetables in a sacred "yufan" bowl every year on the 15th day of the seventh month.

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