Kuching 2011 - Ghost Festival at BDC

The 7th month on the Lunar Calendar is generally regarded as the Ghost Month by the Chinese. During this month, it is believed that the gates of hell are open - and ghosts and spirits come out of their usual lower realm to roam the living world looking for food and entertainment. It is like their designated period for R&R. To appease the spirits, prayers and offerings are performed by Bhuddists and Taoists throughout the month - known as the Hungry Ghost Festival (Zhong Yen Jie or Yulan Jie). Offerings include food, paper money, paper clothes, even paper credit cards and handphones. These are burnt so that they can move over to the spirits' realm. In Singapore and parts of Malaysia, stage performances are very popular as offerings. There is even a whole sub-culture around these performances called "Getai".

I was driving through the BDC area - a large residential area in Kuching, and came across this celebration in front of the BDC Shopping Centre. It was very colourful and interesting, and I happened to have my trusty Lumix TZ-10 with me, so I decided to snap a few shots to share with you.

These giant incense sticks have become very popular in recent years. I don't remember seeing them when I was a kid, except in photos.

A couple of tents had been set up in the car park area to accommodate a temporary altar. Inside were many offerings to the spirits - including lots of roast sucking pigs. Some people say that these offerings would taste a bit bland afterwards as the actual essence would have been sucked away by the spirits. I never noticed any difference though.

Outside, 2 large areas on the ground were filled with more offerings. Even young boys are getting in on the action. This is how the culture is passed down through the generations. Often we know what to do, but don't really know what it all means.

The next time you are in Asia during the month of August (which usually coincides with the 7th month on the Lunar Calendar), look out for the colourful flags. These usually point you towards the local celebrations of the Ghost Festival. There is always something interesting to see.


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