Zhong Yuan Jie (Mid-Year Festival)

Zhong Yuan Jie (Mid-Year Festival)


Zhong Yuan Jie, or "Mid-Year Festival", also popularly known as the Hungry Ghost Festival or the Feast for the Wandering Souls, is held on the 7th month of the lunar calendar. On the 15th day of the 7th month, families pay respects to their deceased relatives and visit their graves often with much feasting as if their dead relations still were with them.

It is believed that during this time, the souls of the unborn and that of departed ancestors and friends are released from Purgatory to wander the earth for 30 days. The souls of the dead ignored by relatives may do acts of mischief, so steps must be taken to appease the spirits before they go on a rampage. Hell money, paper offerings and joss sticks are burnt to see to their material needs; food is offered so that the souls do not go hungry and thus less likely to wreak havoc. Neighbourhood celebration dinners or zhong yuan (popularly known as getai) are held on the feast day, with auctions of goods, operas and song performances being part of the festivities. The Buddhists and the Taoists have different ways of celebrating the feast. As ghosts are believed to dominate events, no auspicious activities such as weddings and business launches are held during this period.

Mu Lian
The story of Mu Lian, who tried to save his mother from Hell, is connected to this festival. Mu Lian was reputedly a favourite disciple of Buddha. However his mother had broken her vow of abstention from meat-eating and was cursed to suffer the afflictions of hungry ghosts in Purgatory. Although filial Mu Lian offered rice to his dead mother, hungry ghosts would consume it before she could eat it. In anguish, Mu Lian appealed to Buddha for help. Buddha pointed out that only the monks of the Ten Directions could save her. They had to prepare all kinds of food and items and offer them to the ancestors of the past seven generations on the 15th day of the 7th month. Thereafter, Mu Lian's mother was delivered from her torments.

Bonny Tan

All hell let loose. (1990, September 12). The Straits Times.  Retrieved September 8, 2010, from Factiva database.

Chinese customs and festivals in Singapore (pp. 62-67). (1989). Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations.
(Call no.: SING 390.08995105957 CHI)

Wong, C. S. (1987). An illustrated cycle of Chinese festivities in Malaysia and Singapore (pp. 160-172). Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH.
(Call no.: RSING 398.33 WON)

Further readings
Chinese heritage (p. 152). (1990). Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations.
(Call no.: SING 305.895105957 CHI)

Lee, S. M. (1986). Spectrum of Chinese culture (pp. 172-173). Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: Pelanduk Publication.
(Call no.: RSING q301.2951 LEE)

Lim, S. (1990, September 12). Ghosts and grassroots. The Straits Times, Life, pp. 1, 2.

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Ethnic Communities>>Festivals and Celebrations
Ethnic festivals--Singapore
Singapore--Social life and customs--Chinese
People and communities>>Customs>>Festivities

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