The fall season is a time to prepare for winter and enjoy the annual ritual of watching the emergence of fall colors as nature does it thing. This being an election year, this annual change of seasons will be fraught with political intrusions that will test our patience and tolerance level to try to win our vote. In a democratic society as the United States of America, we are fortunate to be able to exercise our constitutional right to vote in a democratic presidential election every four years. This year China will also be experiencing a change in government leaders that takes place every 10 years but follows a much more different process.
While most Americans understand the structure of the U.S. Government and its democratic election process, less is known about how the Chinese government is structured and how it functions. To assist our readers to better understand how China is governed, we are presenting an article written by Antony James (page 12) and a series of articles by Lisong Liu (beginning on page 12) to provide some insights on the shift in power that these two countries will be experiencing this fall.
Also taking place this fall is the celebration of Halloween. Again, most of you know about the Halloween tradition, which is primarily a holiday for children, however it is not quite as popular in China. While other Western holidays like Christmas have made it over the Pacific, Western-style Halloween celebrations haven’t caught on in China.
In China, Halloween is a religious festival which signifies the connection between the living and the dead. It began about 2,000 years ago, during the rule of Han Dynasty in China. Halloween is celebrated on the fourteenth night of the seventh lunar month according to the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the spirits revisit the mortal world on this day. Halloween in China is also known as the Ghost Festival, Teng Chieh, Zhugyuan Jie, etc.
Teng Chieh is the name of one Halloween festival in China. At Teng Chieh families celebrate the lives of their relatives who have passed away before them. In honor of these family members their relatives place food and water in front of their photographs. They also light the way for these souls to return to earth through the lighting of bonfires and lanterns.
During the Halloween season, Chinese citizens also have a festival called The Feast of the Hungry Ghosts. These ghosts are referred to as "hungry" because they were not given a proper burial when they passed away. The belief is these souls come from people who have passed away due to unnatural causes and those that were not given a proper burial by their family members. The story goes that these souls feel they have been abandoned and look to take it out on the living.
There is also a Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. This is an attempt to make the angry spirits feel welcome and to subdue their antagonistic feelings. To do this the citizens of China offer the spirits joss sticks, food and gifts. These gifts are designed to remind the spirits of items they might have had when they were living and to make the spirits feel comfortable. The hope is that this display will subdue the ill feelings of the spirits and ease their desire for revenge. To welcome the ghosts, there are fires lit in China in celebration of Halloween and the festivals it inspired.
As you can see, China does not celebrate Halloween in the same way that the children and adults of the United States. For some families in China it is a time to remember their loved ones who have passed away over the years. For others it is a religious holiday. Finally, for others it is a way to welcome the spirits of those who have passed away back to earth among the living.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Halloween, unlike the people of China, you can exercise your right to vote in a democratic election for our president, and make a choice between a “trick or treat” and cast your VOTE!
As always, the staff of China Insight appreciates your support and welcome any suggestions as to how we might better serve the community and encourage you to VOTE in the upcoming elections. Not only is voting your right, it is a privilege that has been protected by the men and women of our armed services.
Gregory J. Hugh