A Haunted Legend

In Hong Kong, Halloween parties with revelers in terrifying makeup and flamboyant costumes are all the rage for one night. But the Yu Lan Ghost Festival, also called the Chinese Halloween, lasts an entire month.

This year the Ghost Festival fell in August and September and is said to mark the period when the gates to hell are unlocked and hungry ghosts roam the earth.

The 1.2 million-strong Chiu Chow community in Hong Kong is linked to the history of the festival. They pay respects to hungry ghosts and spirits with opera performances and special dishes.

Chiu Chow opera is staged in more than 30 places in Asia, according to the Chinese Opera Information Center run by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

New Hanjiang Chiu Chow opera troupe, which has been performing for more than 20 years, is one of the five troupes invited from China to perform during the one-month-long festival.

Four years ago, the Yu Lan Ghost Festival was put on China’s intangible cultural heritage list, falling into the category of ‘special practices, rituals and festive events’ set by UNESCO.

However, with fewer young people involved in the annual festival in past years, Mr Lee, a middle-aged Chiu Chow father, worries about the tradition. “Even my own children are not willing to come, but I can’t force them to come,” he said. He hopes the ghosts will still have someone to haunt in the future.

(Edited by Christy Leung)

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