Blessing Rice in Ghost Festival

sduncan post on January 29th, 2015
Posted in China and Taiwan Tags: ,

By Kadia Kwok

The Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival, which is celebrated by Chinese in many countries. This festival is on the Chinese calendar (lunar Calendar)14th night of the month of seventh. The seventh of the Lunar calendar is called Ghost Month.

In the Chinese culture, people believe that hungry ghosts and spirits rise from the gates of hell, which remain open this month. The spirits seek food and revenge, as well as visit their descendants. The Ghost Festival is the height of the Ghost Month Celebrations, and descendants remember their ancestors by preparing a meal for the ghosts. It is widely believed that the ghosts must be satisfied in order for there to be peace, harmony and good fortune in the family.

The last activity of the Ghost Festival is to distribute “Blessing Rice”. In the past, rough, low quality rice was distributed to seniors and to the poor as an act of charity and penance to dispel any ghosts that sought revenge. There would be thousands of seniors who lined up at the community centre, waiting to receive some rice.

Originally, rice was offered to the ghosts. But after being offered, it was no longer a desirable food since it had been touched by the ghosts. In order to prevent waste of edible food, the rich would distribute it to the poor in an act of philanthropy.

Rice has great importance in the Chinese culture, the most important source of carbohydrates in the diet. It is consumed at a rate which is comparable only to the amount of bread eaten in the Western Culture. Historically, during a period of famine, rice was the only food available and saved many lives. As well, many immigrants from Chiu Chau, south part of China, to Hong Kong made a living from growing and selling rice, a business that was carried on by future generations. Hence, rice is a source of food security and had symbolic importance to the people of China.

However, today, the meaning of rice has evolved in Hong Kong. Instead of being blessed by rice, people eat it as a commodity and do not appreciate its value. During rice distribution at the end of the Ghost Festival today, high quality rice is given out in bags of 5 kg each, along with packages of amenities and lucky money packages. Although philanthropic, it is also distributed to those who do not appreciate its sole meaning and do not need the money, rice, or amenities. However, those who are in need no doubt benefit from this evolving tradition.

Alternatively, those from Chiu Chau distribute rice to give relief to the poor, but also as an act of charity from their ancestors who sold rice. This offers peace to those who sell it as well as those who receive it, and in this way has a doubled positive effect.

Works Cited:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedi. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Festival
Festivals. Retrieved from http://www.chinavoc.com/festivals/ghost.htm
Religion Facts. Retrieved from http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/holidays/ghost_festival.htm
Lbrown 7617’s blog. Retrieved from http://lbrown7617.wordpress.com/english-3/why-is-rice-so-important-to-chinese- civilization

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