The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, 中元節

Sam Co-op, Hong Kong, Night, Outdoors, Street Life, Travel 5 Comments

In Chinese tradition, the middle of the seventh month is the ghost month where the ghosts and spirits come back to visit. The ‘temples’ for the festival were constructed out of bamboo and tin sheets. These structures can be assembled and taken apart in a matter of days.

During the festival the living descendants pay homage to their ancestors by burning incense, paper money, and leaving food in front of alters.

The food was prepared on site, anyone interested can join in on the feast.

There was also an auction on the side. The host is very extremely loud and was competing for attention with the main show.

There was a golden alter on the side and during intermission another set of performers dressed in black and ran in circles…for 10minutes.

The elderly people enjoying the show or catching up with friends.

The primary objective of the show is to provide entertainment for the dead, hence they are always performed at night. There are lots of lot banging and high pitch noise, apparently it attracts the ghosts (wonder how they found out?!).

I think they did very well with the make-up and costumes. Personal favorite is the guy on the right (I assumed he’s the bad guy!).

As a kid, I often walked by these festivals with my mom. Even though I didn’t understand any of the rituals or the foreign dialects, it was interesting to re-visit these very traditional practices.

SamThe Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, 中元節

Comments 5

  1. aaron

    I can imagine the guy on the right sayin’ “CALLL LAUU YEH!”, which means, “i’m pissed”

    My parents said they know of two people who can see the dead floating around. One of them said that she’s somewhat irritated by all the rain that Hong Kong has had this year because she would see them all the time when it’s not sunny. I don’t think they’re lying, but I also don’t know if it’s the real deal or not…

    Maybe that’s how they know about the bangin’ noises and high pitched voices…

  2. Horace

    Interesting article. That forth last shot has such perfect bokeh and focus that it looked photoshopped. Is that from the 31mm again?!

  3. Ian

    Where was this festival held? it looks really cool.

    I love the “Evening traffic” set of pictures. The mixture of low light and a less saturated/cooler color balance makes for really attractive effect.

    Anyway, how’s work been? I Finally start work (after 5 weeks of training) on Monday…. i can’t wait. training has been killing me.

  4. Post

    Hehe the forth last shot was taken with the Sigma 70-200mm. Jealous? :P
    The event was held near Kennedy Town, I wouldn’t have known about it but my co-worker knows I like old school stuff..haha. Hope your work goes smoothly, I am sure they expect a lot outta you after 5 weeks of training (and NYC to boot!).

  5. zhen lu

    Hello, Sam

    I’ve been visiting your web from time to time, and been more and more obssessed with your perceptions and observations. Are you heading back for Canada soon? I feel regretful that I did not made up the mind to spend some time with you on photography. Lets try to catch up if you will still be around in HK for some time and will miss you.

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