Spirit Festival in China

The Spirit Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival or Yu Lan Jie (盂兰节) in Chinese, is a traditional event celebrated in China. This festival typically falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, which usually corresponds to August or September in the Gregorian calendar.


The origin of the Spirit Festival in China dates back to the period of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE). It is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist beliefs and is related to the concept of filial piety. The festival is based on the legend of Mulian, a disciple of Buddha, who saved his mother from the realm of hungry ghosts by offering food and prayers. The story of Mulian and his mother inspired people to hold ceremonies and make offerings to ancestors and wandering spirits to ensure their well-being and protection.


National customs for the Spirit Festival in China

During the Spirit Festival, Chinese people believe that the gates of the underworld are opened, allowing spirits and ghosts to roam the earth. To appease these wandering souls, families prepare offerings of food, incense, and paper money. It is also common to burn joss paper, which represents money and material goods that can be used by the spirits in the afterlife.

Another significant aspect of the festival is the performance of traditional Chinese operas and dramas. These performances are not only meant for the entertainment of the living but also to appease the spirits. In some regions, people also set up elaborate feasts with empty seats to invite the spirits to join them in their meal.

Local customs for the Spirit Festival in China

While the customs mentioned above are observed throughout China, there are some unique local customs and variations that can be found in different regions. For example, in Guangdong Province, residents create and display colorful paper lanterns, which are then set afloat on waterways to guide the spirits back to the underworld. In Sichuan Province, people participate in the "Torch Festival," where they light torches and parade through the streets to ward off evil spirits.

In Hong Kong, a unique event called the Yu Lan Cultural Festival is held, featuring Chinese opera performances, lion dances, and various rituals. This festival has been inscribed on China's National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2011.


The Spirit Festival in China is a time-honored tradition that showcases the country's rich cultural history and beliefs. The festival serves as a reminder of the importance of ancestral worship and filial piety, as well as an opportunity to gather with family and friends to celebrate and pay respects to the deceased. As the customs and rituals vary from region to region, the Spirit Festival also highlights the diversity of Chinese culture and the unique practices that make each celebration special.