On the streets around my home, I have noticed recently scenes like this; offerings of fruit or incense left on the curbside, or clusters of people throwing papers into fiery cannisters. I wondered if this had always been going on and I had never noticed, or if there had been a sudden spike.
Then I realised – its August. O-Bon in Japan, and in the Chinese world too, the festival of the ghosts. This is when the deceased come back to visit their descendants, and those who died alone with no-one to claim them fly back mournfully to haunt the living.
I patted myself on the back for my recent coffin donation at a Bangkok ‘body snatcher’ temple, saving one soul from this fate with a proper burial and at the same time topping up my karma,( much depleted from my run-in with the Causeway Bay Tiger ladies.)
On Lamma Island the local temple was especially decorated, with paper figures of white cranes (the standard funery symbol) and also lanky legged horses, ridden by paper ghosts. In Japan, people leave “eggplant horses” – vegetables propped up with four chopsticks – outside their homes for a similar purpose, to provide the spirits with a way to ride home to the Underworld.
I also noticed for the first time this grimacing giant, seemingly specially decorated for the occassion. I have never seen something like this at a Chinese shrine before; he looked like a Thai yaksha.