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Zhongyuan Festival


Ullambana Festival of Buddhism

July 15 of the lunar calendar is known as the Ullambana Festival among Buddhists. The word "Ullambana" is a transliteration of Sanskrit. "Ullam" means hanging by the feet, which refers to being in a bad situation; while "bana" is the vessel used to hold offerings. Buddhist doctrine believes that offering articles can rescue deceased parents or relatives from bad situations. For Buddhism in Han Chinese areas, the Buddhist ritual held annually on July 15 seeks to release souls of departed ancestors from purgatory. The Ullambana Sutra is also called the Ullambana Ceremony, Ullambana Fast and Ullambana Offering.The Ullambana Festival of Buddhism has two purposes. One is to persuade people to provide for Buddhist monks. The other is to inculcate people to do more charitable deeds so as to release departed souls from sin and advocate filial piety.

Folk customs of the 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 by pasting paper 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.

• Burning envelope

It is said 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. This tradition is called "burning envelope".

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