Soothing the spirits

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 August, 2006, 12:00am

Yue Lan, the Hungry Ghosts Festival, falls on the 14th day of the seventh lunar month, which, this year, is tomorrow. During this month-long period, it is believed the gates of the underworld are open, allowing spirits to wander the world of the living. Offerings and prayers are made to placate and comfort these hungry ghosts.

The unhappy spirits are those who have died without descendants or those who experienced violent deaths and were not given proper funeral rites. If not placated, the spirits may disturb the living. Offerings of incense, paper clothing, food and spirit money are made at roadsides, temples, intersections and other open spaces, while makeshift tents housing altars are also erected against settings of giant joss-sticks. The placated spirits then return to the underworld before the arrival of the 8th moon.

Fung shui masters advise clients not to get married, move or start new businesses during this period. You may also find banquet venues offering heavily discounted rates for the duration of the festival.

When passing spirit offerings on the street, it is insensitive and inadvisable to step over them, to spit or to show other signs of disrespect. The older generation may be reluctant to go out during this month.