Chung Yuan: a guide to the Hungry Ghost Festival in China

Hell money. Chinese. Shop. Customers.'拜天公' by eefeewahfahCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

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Location: China

Date: 15th day of the seventh lunar month. 21 Aug 2013; 10 Aug 2014; 28 Aug 2015.

Level of participation: 4 - sit next to a ghost at dinner

For the Chinese, this is ‘Ghost Month’, a time when they are scared to leave their houses after dark. They believe the doors to the afterworld are thrown open and ghosts roam the land of the living, settling old scores or just scaring people.

You won’t catch a superstitious Chinese person near the water, where, it’s thought, spirits are waiting to drag them under. Whistling is also a bad idea.

Halfway through the month, the Chinese throw a party to appease the restless spirits. Lanterns are hung, buried and floated on the water to guide the phantom guests to banquets and opera performances. If you see an empty chair, don’t sit in it - it’s reserved for the dead. Streets and graveyards fill with paper models of worldly goods and paper banknotes, known as ‘Hell money’. At night, the piles are burnt and fearful souls cluster around the pyres in the spooky darkness.

Local attractions: head to the big cities to see the fattest wads of Hell money. In Hong Kong you could hit the beach, but be warned, steer clear of the surf after dark.

More info: www.discoverhongkong.com

See other top festivals in August here.