Monday, October 6, 2008

Chung Yeung Festival 重陽節

today is the Chung Yeung Festival holiday (重陽節) or sometimes called the Double Ninth Festival as it falls on the 9th day of the 9th month on the Chinese calendar.
there is a legend from the Han Dynasty where a family was advised to go to a high place on a mountain for the whole day. when they returned to their village all living things had been killed...charming.
so with this legend in mind, many people in Hong Kong go for a stroll around the various mountain hiking tracks and eat rice cakes called "gao" (
) which sounds like the Chinese word for "high" or "top".
it is also traditional to drink chrysanthemum tea or wine as this is considered to have cleansing qualities.

the most common activity in Hong Kong on this day is for people to visit the graves of the deceased to tidy the area and to burn joss paper (
紙錢, 金紙) commonly known as "ghost money". this is burned so as the deceased can use the money for a more "prosperous" afterlife.

ghost money is naturally not "real" money, but paper money usually made from bamboo.
in Hong Kong 3000 pieces of ghost money sells for about HK$105. there is also a recycled paper version which sells for half the price.
there is also the more modern form of ghost money called the "hell bank note"; basically a high domination version.
walking around the back streets of Hong Kong i often see people burning such money on the side of the road in metal canisters. next time i will try to take a photo and add it here.

bundle of ghost money

something which surprised me at first were shops selling papier-mâché objects such as TVs, cars, MP3 players, houses etc. at first i wasn't sure what they were for, but these elaborate made paper replicas (some selling for HK$2000!!) are bought and then burned to again insure that the deceased have such luxury items in their after
life. it seems like things are getting a bit out of hand with papier-mâché Gucci bags, prostitute dolls, condoms, and even paper Viagra pills!

but all tackiness aside, it's serious business. it's not wise to buy a
papier-mâché prostitute and give to a friend as a joke as this is considered that you wish them to die...
even when bought they will be kept hidden away out of view as it's bad luck to keep them in a home. when being burnt they are treated with respect and not just thrown into the fire, but placed respectfully.

unfortunately due to the cooler weather at this time of year (finally!) hill fires are common. last year there were just under 70 hill fires in Hong Kong due to people not insuring that their ghost money was completely extinguished before leaving the cemetery.
2 years ago there was a huge hill fire during this festival which raged for 51 hours burning down 66,000 trees!!
let's hope there will be zero hill fires today!!


pascale said...

All those replicas are made pretty well aren't they? How I wish those were real and were mine!

world of sekimachihato said...

* pascale
those replicas are amazing!
i really wanna take some photos but it's kinda tricky as you have to be respectful at the same time.
i think it's hard for people to imagine them without seeing how extraordinary they actually are.

mandy said...

be careful not to step on the "dust" (the paper that after burning and usually flying around and there r many on the street)!!! It will bring you bad luck!!!!!!!!!! @_@!!!

The replicas are very up to date @_@
They have Wii too!!!!!!!!!!!!!

world of sekimachihato said...

* mandy
i didn't know about the dust (ash), so i'll watch my step!

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