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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in China Series at ChineseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Chinese holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 10, Ghost Festival. In Chinese, it’s called 中元节 (zhōngyuán jié).
The fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is the traditional Chinese Ghost Festival. The old saying is that on this day, ghosts return from the underworld and wander in the world. Hence, people worship their ancestors to drive evil away and have their families blessed.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
Traditionally, all of July is considered an unlucky month, and there are two things you had better not do. Do you know what these two things are?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The Ghost Festival, which is in the middle of the lunar year, is the most important ghost-related festival in China. On this day, people give steamed bread or 馒头 (mántou) to deceased family members who they believe have lost their connections, to keep their hunger at bay on their way to the underworld. There is also a custom of lighting lights during the Ghost Festival, to send ghosts off and guide them back to the underworld.
Worshipping ancestors during the Ghost Festival is slightly different from Tomb Sweeping Day. First, people worship at noon. Usually, they prepare a full table of delicacies or 美味佳肴 (měiwèi jiāyáo) to show that they are living a happy life so their ancestors don't need to worry about them. Families with elderly people pay more attention to details such as arranging seven pairs of chopsticks, seven wine glasses, and a carved wooden fruit box, in order to show respect to their ancestors.
Since it is the Ghost Festival, there are many interesting and scary stories and taboos or 禁忌 (jìnjì). For example, you should not go out at midnight on that day because you'll have an eighty percent chance of running into a ghost. Also, you should not wear red cords as accessories, should not carry bells, should not hang and dry clothes, and should not pick money up off the street. Of course, what you do depends on whether you believe in ghosts or not!
There is a Chinese saying that states 不做亏心事,不怕鬼敲门 (bù zuò kuī xīnshì, bùpà guǐ qiāomén) “ghosts won't knock at the doors of those with a good conscience,” meaning that evil won't come if a person doesn't do bad things; it will go away instead.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
Traditionally, all of July is considered an unlucky month, and there are two things you had better not do. Do you know what these two things are?
To avoid running into ghosts, people believed in ancient times that moving to new houses and marrying should be avoided in the ghost month.
What did you think of this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Are there any similar ghost festivals in your country? Please leave a comment letting us know at ChineseClass101.com, and I'll see you in our next lesson. Bye!