A spine-tingling statistic: China's ghost population will boom
But there is no need to be frightened. This is only because Halloween
is becoming more and more popular, with hordes of revellers dressing up as
ghosts, goblins and witches.
This year the festival is being given a modern twist, as many young
Chinese send e-Halloween cards and have online parties.
There is even a tug-of-war
in cyberspace between supporters of Western ghosts in black cloaks, and
fans of Chinese ones who stick out their long tongues. The latter group is
calling for a revival of local ghosts as foreign ones begin to take over.
"There is a 'ghost festival' in China that is more than two thousand
years old," one claimed at the popular online forum Tianya.com. "These
'expat ghosts' are not going to be the winners who take all."
No matter which side they are on, Chinese netizens have never shown
such interest in ghosts.
Major websites in China such as Sina.com, Sohu.com and 163.com are all
offering e-greetings for Halloween on their home pages. A popular e-card
at Sohu.com featuring a cute black-cloaked, green-faced ghost has been
sent more than 20,000 times.
Halloween in China is a "crazy night" for young people now, according
to Sheila Shi, a website editor in Beijing.
The revellers probably
don't know the origins of Halloween, which go back to ancient Celtic
traditions in Ireland. According to Celtic mythology, November 1 marked
the end of summer, and it was then that the boundaries between the natural
and the supernatural were believed to disappear, and spirits of the dead
moved freely among the human world.
It's interesting to see certain parallels with the Chinese ghost
festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival in southern China and
Southeast Asia. It falls on July 15 of the lunar calendar, or mid-August
of the Gregorian calendar.
On that day, Chinese legend says, the gate to hell is opened at
midnight, and ghosts swarm into the world of human beings in search of
food and money.
These ghosts, who have been starving for a whole year, will enter
households if they cannot find enough delicacies in the street. Therefore,
people in southern China traditionally put chicken, meat, vegetables,
rice, tea and fruit on their doorsteps that day.
In other parts of the country people simply burn pieces of paper
resembling currency notes, and in larger cities in East China, such as
Shanghai and Hangzhou, the ghosts are now welcomed by candles lit along
According to website editor Shi, the streets that night are empty in
Chongqing, as few dare leave their house. "They say if a ghost finds you
in the street and follows you back home, your family will have bad luck
all year," she said.
"All in all, people should be very careful
during the Chinese ghost festival; they have to keep away from ghosts and
not offend them. It's really not as much fun as