My First Hungry Ghost Festival Photo Outing (2012)

Posted by shloke 14 October 2012
When I was a little kid, I always explore the annual Hungry Ghost Festival in my neighborhood. My mom had forbidden me to go (many times). According to her "the wandering ghost of the dead, including the vengeful spirits will take their revenge, and may cause trouble during the unholy month". The endless stories of Yuān Guǐ (冤鬼): the ghost of someone who has died a wrongful death (they roam the world of the living, depressed and restless, seeking to have their grievances redressed) - it FAILED to scare me. Being an inquisitive child, I'm always curious about the “why” behind everything.

I've never taken pictures of Hungry Ghost Festival. My instinct tell me that it is NOT RIGHT to barge into the festival and start snapping away. At first I was a bit hesitant, but what the heck....journalist were covering the annual event and the festival was in jovial mood. Who cares?

Armed with my newly bought Nikon D3200 and 18-105 mm VR lens, I spent an hour exploring the 2012 Annual Hungry Ghost Festival in Kepong Baru, Kuala Lumpur. Before proceeding further, let's take a look at some interesting facts about The Hungry Ghost Festival.

  1. In Chinese tradition, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. 
  2. The Chinese believe that during this month, the Gates of Hell will be opened to free the hungry ghosts. These ghosts wander the streets, and the Chinese make offerings to the Dead to appease them and ward off back luck.
  3. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors.
  4. Parents set curfews for their children during the 7th month because they believe ghosts can possess children easily, and there will be a lot of wandering ghosts on the streets. 
  5. You will see a lot of roadside concert shows. Chinese call them “GeTai” 歌台 (literally song stage). You will also see Chinese opera shows. Chinese believe that the dead will return to visit their living relatives during this month, and thus they must prepare some entertainment for them. These events are only held at night, and also serves to entertained the wandering ghosts. You will notice that the front rows are always empty; that is because they are meant for our “VIPs”
  6. The festivals usually conclude with the burning of Hell paper money, hell paper clothes for their use in the underworld.

The following are some of the random pictures I've captured during The Hungry Ghost Festival. If you like what you see, click LIKE and SHARE it with your Facebook friends :)


Title: White Guard for Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades)
About: The White Guard paper effigy was placed right next to the King of Hades (aka God of The Underworld).

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 1600
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 85mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Black Guard for Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades)
About: The Black Guard effigy was positioned on the left side of King of Hades. A difficult shot. The place was dark, full of incense smoke and the priest was busy offering prayers to the devotees.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/30 s
ISO: 3200
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 90mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: The White Horse (1)
About: A white colored paper horse effigy, a representation of the Horse Spirits.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/15 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.2
FOCAL LENGTH: 34mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: The White Horse (2)
About: After performing the last rites, the effigy of the God of Hades, together with his horse, ship, mansion, paper apparel, hell notes, gold and silver mountains are burnt to return the God back to where he came from.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 1800
F-STOP: f/5
FOCAL LENGTH: 58mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: King of Hades (1)
About: As the story goes, the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha's (King of Hell's) mother died and was subjected to all manner of torture. Because he could not bear to see his mother suffering so, on the fifteenth day of the 7th lunar month, he used his personal relationships and connections to free his mother's ghost. Unfortunately, at the same time that he freed his mother's ghost, all the ghosts in the cell also surged out to disturb the human world.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/15 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.8
FOCAL LENGTH: 45mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: King of Hades (2)
About: The King of Hades with large bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, protruding tongue, giant belly and sharp fangs was placed under a huge tent.

The King of Hell is based on Yama, the judge of the dead in the Hindu and Buddhist religion. He decided if someone stayed dead or returned to the world of the living, and would choose how they would be reincarnated. It's believed that if you lie to him, he will rip out your tongue.

「嘘をつくと閻魔さまに舌を抜かれる」

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 1600
F-STOP: f/5.3
FOCAL LENGTH: 80mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Let the music begin!  ♪ ♫
About: The chants of the Taoist priest inform the spirits that it’s time to return to the underworld. I managed to 'sneak' into the chanting hall and took a picture of the chanting instrument used by the priest.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 1600
F-STOP: f/5.3
FOCAL LENGTH: 66mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Food for the living
About: DELICIOUS salted 'pak cham kai'. This chicken meat is not an offering for the departed soul. It's a scrumptious lunch for the festival workers.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.2
FOCAL LENGTH: 32mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Offerings to the deceased (1)
About: Burning of paper money and joss sticks are a common sights along the roads during this period.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/40 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/3.8
FOCAL LENGTH: 22mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Offerings to the deceases (2)
About: OK...I was curious like a cat. There were two ladies selling a bunch of paper offerings for the deceased. It was all bundled up. Upon seeing my camera, one of the elderly woman offered to remove the bundle and asked me to explore the papers up close and personal.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/15 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.2
FOCAL LENGTH: 30mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Offerings to the deceased (3)
About: I'm a 'banana'. Can someone help me translate these Chinese words?
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/40 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.5
FOCAL LENGTH: 38mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Offering to the deceased (4)
About:  Bank notes from the ‘Bank of Hell’ can be inexpensively purchased for the deceased’s’ expenses in the next world.  Such paper money is thrown into the air to distract the attention of wandering spirits and is burnt with all other paper items.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/15 s
ISO: 450
F-STOP: f/4.5
FOCAL LENGTH: 38mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Donations
About: Receipts displaying cash donations by well-wishers.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 42mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Offering to the deceased (5)
About: Games are offered to the hungry ghosts such as playing cards, dices, dominoes, and Chinese chess. But Heineken? um......
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 2800
F-STOP: f/5.3
FOCAL LENGTH: 42mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


1 Responses to My First Hungry Ghost Festival Photo Outing (2012)

  1. Laarni Says:
  2. I love your shot of pictures of colourful puppet! It shows how important the festival is for the local people at your town.

     
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Traveling & photography are the most rewarding & enriching experiences in my life. Photography is all about discovery, enjoying myself, having adventure, learning people & nature. The greatest experience for me is the connection I felt with NATURE. If you haven’t seen Malaysia, you haven’t seen the world! My photography works are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.
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