The 15th day of the seventh lunar month every year is a traditional Chinese festival called Zhongyuan Festival. It is commonly known as the Ghost Festival or the Hungry Ghost Festival. Customs include ancestor worship, floating river lanterns, and offerings to the Earth God.
The Ghost Festival can be traced back to ancient times when people worshipped their ancestors and celebrated bountiful harvests. In early autumn, people offered seasonal delicacies to their ancestors, expressing gratitude to the land and praying for a good harvest in the following year.
On this day, people report the autumn harvest to their ancestors. The cultural core of this festival is to honor ancestors and filial piety. It is one of the major traditional ancestral worship festivals in China, along with the Lunar New Year's Eve, Qingming Festival, and Double Ninth Festival.
The Ghost Festival being called the Zhongyuan Festival is derived from the later Taoist beliefs during the Eastern Han Dynasty. The three festivals, namely Shangyuan Festival, Zhongyuan Festival, and Xiayuan Festival, collectively known as the "Three Yuan," are all Taoist holidays.
In Taoism, there are heavenly officials, earthly officials, and water officials. The heavenly officials bestow blessings on the 15th day of the first lunar month, which is known as Shangyuan. The earthly officials grant amnesty on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, known as Zhongyuan. The water officials, on the other hand, relieve suffering on the 15th day of the tenth lunar month, known as Xiayuan.
On the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, it is also the Buddhist festival known as the Yulanpen Festival (or Ullambana Festival). With the influence of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, the Zhongyuan Festival becomes even more significant. It emphasizes the ideas of remembering ancestors and being grateful for the harvest.