Adventures in East Asia

Kuching Part 4 - Hungry Ghost Festival in Kuching and the Tua Pek Kong Temple

On our second day in Kuching, at the elaborate Tua Pek Kong Temple (the oldest Chinese temple in Kuching) opposite our hotel, a scaffold construction was put up and across the road from there, a stall was set up with lots of food and ancestral worshipping items.




It appeared that the timing of the year suggested that the end of the Hungry Ghost Festival was about to be celebrated.


The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated during the 7th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. During this month, the gates of hell are opened up and hungry ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment. These Ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who have forgotten to pay tribute to them after they had deceased.


Linh and I had seen the preparations earlier in the day and by the time we came back to the hotel at night, we were in time to see crowds of Chinese people inside and around the Tua Pek Kong Temple and the stall.

This time, there were lots of young men holding onto the base of the scaffolding and a whole pile of gift packages on the platform on top. I had seen the packaged gifts close up in a supermarket earlier and they contained a host of goodies, such as chocolates, biscuits etc. There was also a tall bamboo pole reaching higher, with a lantern at the top.


When we asked someone, we found out that soon, a signal would be given and the men at the base would scale the scaffold as quick as they could to get to the gifts. At just after 8pm, the signal was given and all the guys rushed up and grabbed all the gifts that they could to throw down to their waiting accomplices. Watch this video below to see the scene unfold.

Aside from being something reminiscent of a Jackie Chan film, albeit without the martial arts athletics, I was completely surprised by the ignorance of safety (even without my experience of the UK's love of caution and safety regulations).

The scaffold was right next to the busy road and once the signal was given, waiting bystanders and accomplices were milling about and cars had to slow down to avoid them.


Anway, there was still a sense of fun and excitement while it lasted. We were also told that the lantern at the top of the bamboo was the ultimate prize for someone to grab, but this was largely ignored and later taken down.

Almost as soon as the last gift was taken, the crowds started to disperse and the remaining people began taking down what they could and burnt paper items in two makeshift furnaces around the corner.


This entry posted in : Culture. Malaysian Borneo.

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