Hungry Ghost FAQ

What is a Hungry Ghost?
The Hungry Ghost is a spiritual concept with roots in Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. It describes a deceased soul reborn in the second lowest realm of hell to live a shadow life full of great suffering. A soul can become a Hungry Ghost by living a life of greed or neglect… or by being neglected by one’s family… or by committing evil misdeeds like killing and stealing… or by dying a violent death.

What is Ghost Month?
On the new moon of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the Gates of Hell open. For the entire month, hungry ghosts are allowed to roam the earth. On the final day, hungry ghosts are called home and the Gates of Hell close.

What is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
The Hungry Ghost Festival is on the fifteen day of Ghost Month. The Hungry Ghost Festival honors all hungry ghosts with ceremonies and celebration. Hungry ghosts are offered money, food and gifts to relieve their suffering.

Where is the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated?
It is observed by millions of people across the globe, primarily in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.

How is the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated?
Observances and celebrations vary widely across cultures. Most cultures burn joss paper and incense for the dead. Offerings of food are also common. Some places, like Singapore, have huge street festivals that feature young female pop stars call getai. These shows attract thousands, young and old.

What is Joss Paper?
Joss paper, or Ghost Money, is spiritual currency that can be spent in Hell. Spirits receive the money when it is ceremoniously burned.

Where can you buy joss paper?
Many Asian supermarkets in the United States sell basic joss paper that is used for ghost festivals as well as in some funeral services.

What do you do with joss paper?
Burn it.

How do you burn joss paper?
It depends on who you are and where you live. Across Asia, people burn joss paper in front of their homes, on the streets, or in public gathering places. Shop keepers set up special altars that include joss burners for their customers to use. Temples hold ceremonies. Monks visit graveyards.

What is a joss burner?
A receptacle for burning joss paper. In the United States, small joss burners made of thin sheet metal can be purchased at a few of the Asian supermarkets that sell joss paper.

What are other ways to celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival?
Candle lit lanterns are floated down rivers and streams to guide the dead back to hell. When the candle lights go out, they have found their way home.

How can I learn more about the Hungry Ghost Festival?
Download our Hungry Ghost Guide for free. Then, check out our link pages on this blog, or research the internet on your own. Be advised, however, that there are millions of links to all things “hungry ghost” related, not just the festival. The term itself is becoming a meme of sorts serving to describe everything from an obese American to an addiction recovery program.


A Blog for the Hungry Ghost