The Zhongyuan Festival is China’s Ghost Festival, also known as Ullambana Festival among Buddhists. It falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month each year. Since ancient times, the Chinese have believed that the gates of hell open on that day and so people hold all kinds of activities to honor the ghosts. Therefore, the festival is also called the Ghost Festival. Buddhist doctrine says that by offering articles on the festival day, deceased parents and relatives can be saved from bad situations in their afterlife.
Chinese people has some folk customs for Zhongyuan Festival
Floating water lantern
Among the various folk customs of the Zhongyuan Festival, the floating water lantern is the grandest. The water lantern, also called lotus lantern, is usually made into a lotus shape. Then a lamp or candle is placed inside. On the night of the Zhongyuan Festival, lanterns are released into rivers or lakes.
Chinese used to hang out lanterns to memorize the ghosts as well as their ancestors. Chinese think that human beings belong to yang while ghosts and water belong to yin. The dark and mysterious underworld usually reminds people of the gloomy sepulchral hell where the ghosts suffer. So lanterns are floated on the waters
Burning paper "money"
It is said that in folklore that departed ancestors will be released by Yama for half a month. As a result, there is a custom to welcome ancestors at the beginning of July and send them off on July 15. When sending off the spirits, people will burn a lot of paper "money" so ancestors can spend it in the nether world. They will also insert some paper "money" into an envelope on which the user's name has been written. The envelope will be burnt for sacrifice.
A popular folk custom during the festival requires that a grandfather or uncle on the mother's side send a live goat to his grandson or nephew. Legend has it that the custom has something to do with the myth of Chenxiang Saving His Mother from the Mountain. The custom has gradually evolved into sending a pair of flour goats.
The festival is quite popular among Chinese and is celebrated not only on the Chinese mainland, but also in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Besides, it has spread to and is celebrated in Thailand, Japan, North Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.