I'm a Ghost Writer Today

Today, the 14th day of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar, is Hungry Ghost Festival and I am writing about ghosts.

According to the Chinese belief, today marks the closing of the Gate of Hell, the last day of the two weeks during which the hungry ghosts that have been allowed to roam freely in the human world. These two weeks may be a period of reprieve for the deceased, but for many of the living, they are more than a little jittery. Ghosts are considered scary in most cultures, and in the Chinese culture it is no exception. I was brought up under much fear of ghosts. In all my childhood, I was scared stiff by ghosts, totally convinced that ghosts are everywhere; ghosts rule the night and the dark; if we are in bad luck, we may easily run into ghosts; if we do or say things which anger ghosts, they come to haunt us; ghosts have to take lives so that they can be reincarnated. While I believe I know better now, there are many people I know for whom the mere mention of ghosts or expressions with such associations are regarded as taboo.

In the two weeks when ghosts are freed from the underworld, people have to pacify them with incense and food offerings. They have to be careful not to stay out too late at night – especially tonight – in order not fall prey to ghosts looking for victims. Any bad accidents involving loss of lives during these two weeks, like the one in which a coach overturned and three airport workers were killed, are likely to be interpreted as the work of re-incarnation-seeking ghosts.

Today’s newspaper reported that due to the heated property market sentiments, there is recently some movement even for the usually stagnant market of ominous flats (flats in which suicide or murder cases happened). But the selling prices can be more than 40% lower than the market prices. Such is people’s fear or aversion to anything to do with ghosts.

It's a costly superstition.

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