Zhong Yuan Jie (中元节), also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, traditionally falls on the seventh month of the lunar calendar. This is the month where the gates of hell are opened to free the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth.
In Singapore, the festival is observed throughout the entire seventh lunar month (22nd August 2017 to 19th September 2017) and during this period, many Chinese worship their ancestors and make offerings to wandering souls that roam the earth.
The origin and significance of the Hungry Ghost Festival differ between Taoists and Buddhists. Taoists focus on appeasing the wandering souls released from the netherworld, while the emphasis of the Buddhists is filial piety.
The followings are some of the things to avoid doing that are taboos during the 7th lunar month.
Taboo #1: No selfies or taking photos in the middle of the night.... the "Yin Qi" (negative energy) is the strongest in the middle of the night and this is when you might end up with paranormal images (you will find your photos being photobombed by an unknown presence). It is said that capturing such pictures will bring bad luck to the photographer.
Taboo #2: Avoid hospital visits or undergoing surgery during this month. The hospital has always been known as a place with strong "Yin Qi" (negative energies) where revengeful wondering spirit likes to hang around to take any opportunities to possess the body of the weak and helpless.
Taboo #3: Do not wait at the bus stop after midnight or taking the last bus or train ride home or you may encounter "floating" stalker following you home as well.
Taboo #4: Do not play games such as Ouija board (碟仙) or risked getting overwhelmed by the powerful spirits you might not be able to control.
Taboo #5: Avoid knocking or whistling in the middle of the night. It is said that you should not blow a whistle or any instruments like a flute etc. during the nights of the 7th lunar month as the spirits might be mistaken that you are calling out for them. Hard knocking and hammering has the same effects.
Taboo #6: Don’t turn your head around if someone pats you on the shoulders. According to Chinese believes, it is said that everyone has 3 torches of fire each; 1 on the head and the other 2 on both the shoulders. These torches of fire protect a person's mental and spiritual well-being. Should you hear someone calling out to you by your full name or feel someone tapping on your shoulders from behind during this month, do not turn your head back over your shoulders as this action will extinguish the fire on your shoulder and cause you to be easily taken away by Casper...
Taboo #7: Stay away from deep waters, or loitering around in the mountains, graveyards or isolated forest. Try not to play in the sea or other deep pools of water during this period of time to avoid meeting the "water-ghosts". Also avoid loitering in the mountains and graveyards, especially in the night when it's dark, as low visibility will likely lead to unnatural accidents.
Taboo #8: Do not lean against or walk close to the wall during the night because spirit apparently likes to stick to the walls because they are cooler. You may accidently cross into them and they might get agitated by your trespassing
Taboo #9: Avoid drying out your wet clothes in the balcony late at night.… Legend has it that the clothes on the balcony might attract spirits due to it being shaped like a human. There's also another saying that the ghosts would take the opportunity to look for clothes to keep them warm during their little holiday here after suffering in misery from the unending cold in the nether world.
Taboo #10: For those who are born during the 7th lunar month, it would be best not to celebrate your birthday on the first day of the lunar month when hell's gates are said to be open and try to avoid any late night celebrations or else you may get some new "friends" singing your birthday song.
Taboo #11: Avoid spitting, blowing your nose and peeing in the public or beside a tree / plant. You might spit or pee on "them" accidentally and it's rather disrespectful.
Taboo #12: Remove all wind-chime in your bedroom or window. The sound of the wind-chime attracts spirits and it is easiest to get invaded when you are asleep. Wind-chime by the window is akin to an open invitation to enter.
Taboo #13: Do not steal or play with the offerings belonging to the spirits. Adversity will befall upon you if you touch it without their permission.
Taboo #14: Avoid stepping over incense paper offered to the spirits or intentionally knocking down the burning bins. Our "friends of the underworld" will usually gather by the sides to pick as the hell notes are being burnt. It might anger them or cause unhappiness if you jump and step around at this time.
Taboo #15: Avoid eating cold bean curd and eggs. According to Chinese believes, bean curd symbolizes the brain of the ghost whereas egg shells mean to kowtow to them. Traditionally, bean curd and sprouts are usually used as offerings because it is said that the spirits are unable to consume any food in the netherworld as the food would have turned to ashes before they could even put it into their mouths. Bean curd and sprouts have higher water content, hopefully they will not get incinerated that easily before the hungry ghosts can be fed.
Taboo #16: Do not stab your chopsticks on your bowl of rice as it resembles a pair of joss sticks offering to the dead. It is directly cursing your own death or attract the spirits to feed on it.
Taboo #17: If you know from your personal Bazi (8-Characters) chart that you are undergoing a weak luck cycle or overwhelmed by too many “Yin” elements, try not to gallivant at night as much as possible during the Ghost Festival, otherwise you might have a paranormal encounter. Should it be unavoidable, do look for a male friend or person with strong "Yang" elements in their Bazi chart to accompany you so as to avoid being pestered by spirits.
Taboo #18: Do not open your umbrella inside your house at night, especially red in colour or risk inviting the spirits into your house.
Taboo #19: Avoid picking up or talking to stranger, especially those who are standing alone in dark corners… they are usually looking frighten or emotional. Do not stare at them if you see one but calmly walk away. These spirits are usually looking for help from the human and if they notice that you can spot them… they will follow you home.
Taboo #20: Avoid picking up random items like red packets from the ground. Keep your eyes in front and don't look down when you walk around during the period of the Ghost Festival. Do not attempt to pick anything up from the ground if you spot a red packet or even clothes because these items are specially placed there to bribe the ox-head and horse-faced ambassadors from hell.