Currently housed at the Kyoto National Museum , artist unknown. There are many legends regarding the origin of hungry ghosts. In the Buddhist tradition there are stories from Chuan-chi po-yuan ching "Sutra of One Hundred Selected Legends" that is from the early third century. One story is of a rich man who traveled selling sugar-cane juice. One day a monk came to his house looking for some juice to cure an illness.
The man had to leave, so he instructed his wife to give the monk the drink in his absence. Instead of doing this, she secretly urinated in the monk's bowl, added sugar cane juice to it and gave it to the monk. The monk was not deceived, he poured out the bowl and left. When the wife died she was reborn as a hungry ghost.
One day he was about to leave his house when a monk came by begging. The man instructed his wife to give the monk some food. After the man left his house his wife was overcome with greed. She took it upon herself to teach the monk a lesson, so she locked the monk in an empty room all day with no food. She was reborn as a hungry ghost for innumerable lifetimes.
One of the stories tells of a man who was a diviner who constantly misled people due to his own avarice and is now a hungry ghost.
The story is about five hundred men that were sons of elders of the city they lived in. When monks came begging to the city for food, the sons denied them because they thought the monks would keep coming back and eventually take all their food.
After the sons died they were reborn as hungry ghosts. The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated during the 7th month of the Chinese calendar. It also falls at the same time as a full moon, the new season, the fall harvest, the peak of monastic asceticism, the rebirth of ancestors, and the assembly of the local community.
These ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who have forgotten to pay tribute to them after they died. They have long thin necks because they have not been fed by their families. Tradition states that families should offer prayers to their deceased relatives and burn " hell money ". It is believed that "hell money" is a valid currency in the underworld and helps ghosts to live comfortably in the afterlife. People also burn other forms of joss paper such as paper houses, cars and televisions to please the ghosts.
A big feast is held for the ghosts on the 15th day of the 7th month, where people bring samples of food and place them on the offering table to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck. Live shows are also put on and everyone is invited to attend. The first row of seats is always empty as this is where the ghosts are supposed to sit to better enjoy the live entertainment. The shows are always put on at night and at high volumes, so that the sound attracts and pleases the ghosts. He is believed to become their voice on earth.
The Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha sits in front of the chair. Under the chair are plates of rice flour and peaches. Sitting on the altar are three spirit tablets and three funeral banners. After noon, sheep, pigs, chicken, fruits, and cakes are donated by families that are displayed on the altar. A priest will put a triangular paper banner of three colors with special characters on every sacrifice. After the music begins to play, the priest hits the bell to call the hungry ghosts back to the table.
He then throws the rice and peaches into the air in all directions to distribute them to the ghosts. Incense stands for prosperity, the more incense burnt, the greater one's prosperity.
In the middle of each street stands an altar of incense with fresh fruit and sacrifices displayed on it. Behind the altar, monks will sing songs that it is believed only the ghosts can understand.
This rite is called shi ge'r, meaning "singing ghost songs". These lanterns are made by setting a lotus flower-shaped lantern on a piece of board. Hungry ghosts are believed to have found their way back when the lanterns go out. It is believed that the soul contains elements of both yin and yang. The yin is the kui , or demon part, and the yang is the shen , or spirit part.
When death occurs, the kui should return to earth, and the shen to the grave or family shrine. If a ghost is neglected, it will become a kui. The shen, or ancestral spirit watches over its descendants, and can bring good fortune if properly worshipped. According to the Buddha Dharma , there are three main groups of hungry ghosts: The ghosts with a little wealth are able to eat small amounts.
The ghosts with great wealth also have three subgroups: The ghosts of sacrifices and losses sometimes suffer from hunger and thirst, whereas the ghosts of great powers have pleasures close to those of divine beings. Among hungry ghosts, however, most have little or no wealth and are extremely hungry. Sixteen hungry ghosts are said to live in hell or in a region of hell. Unlike other hell dwellers, they can leave hell and wander. They look through garbage and human waste on the outskirts of human cities.
They are said to be invisible during the daylight hours but visible at night. Some hungry ghosts can only eat corpses, or their food is burnt up in their mouths, sometimes they have a big belly and a neck as thin as a needle this image is the basic one for hungry ghosts in Asian Buddhism.
People are not supposed to sit in the red chairs at the front because they are reserved for the "hungry ghosts. Spirits are thought to be dangerous, and can take many forms, including snakes, moths, birds, foxes, wolves, and tigers.
Some can even use the guise of a beautiful man or woman to seduce and possess. One story refers to a ghost which takes the form of a pretty girl and seduces a young man until a priest intervenes and sends the spirit back to hell. Swimming is thought to be dangerous as well, as spirits are believed to have drowned people.
People will generally avoid driving at night, for fear of a "collision", or spiritual offence, which is any event leading to illness or misfortune. Another thing to avoid is sampling any of the food placed on the offering table, as doing this can result in "mysterious illness". Any person attending a show at indoor entertainment venues getais will notice the first row of chairs is left empty. These seats are reserved for the spirits, and it is considered bad form to sit in them.
After an offering has been burnt for the spirits, stepping on or near the burnt area should be avoided, as it is considered an "opening" to the spirit world and touching it may cause the person to be possessed.