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Culture Insider: China's Ghost Festival

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-08-12 11:11

An Ullambana ceremony is held to rescue the deceased from bad situations at a temple in Hainan on the Ullambana Festival, August 10, 2014. [Photo/VCG]

The legend of Mulian Saves His Mother

The Ullambana Festival is related to the legend of Mulian Saves His Mother.

It is said that after going through innumerable trials and hardships in the nether world, Mulian finally saw his mother, only to find her being tortured by a group of hungry ghosts. Mulian wanted to send his mother rice and dishes with an earthen bowl, but the food was snatched by the hungry ghosts. Mulian had no choice but to ask Buddha for help.

Moved by his filial piety, Buddha presented Mulian with the Ullambana Sutra and told him to participate in an Ullambana Fast on July 15 of the lunar calendar. On that day, food of various kinds as well as five fruits -- peaches, plums, apricots, chestnuts and dates -- should be provided to all Buddhist monks.

Under the instruction of the Ullambana Sutra, Mulian filled the Ullambana vessel with fruits and vegetarian food to offer a sacrifice to his mother on July 15. His starving mother finally got the food. To show his gratitude to the Buddha, Mulian held an almsgiving activity every year to release the hungry ghosts from the disaster of being hanged by their feet.

The day has become a festival to honor departed ancestors, relatives and friends.

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