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Zhongyuan About ZHONGYUAN 101 Origin Stories Explore Online
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This newspaper article shows that the Zhongyuan Festival was observed in Singapore as early as the 1890s, but the history of the festival goes way beyond that. There’s more to the origin and significance of the Zhongyuan Festival as it differs between Taoists and Buddhists. Let’s read on and dissect them together!

yin yang taoism

Taoists emphasise appeasing wandering souls during this period. It was believed that Zhongyuan Festival coincides with the day when Tai Shang Lao Jun and the Yuan Shi Tian Zun meet to discuss the conferment of blessings on humans. According to traditional Taoist beliefs, three deities controlled the fate of mankind: Tian Guan Da Di, ruler of heaven; Di Guan Da Di, ruler of earth; and Shui Guan Da Di, ruler of water. Di Guan Da Di will then descend to earth every year on his birthday, which is the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, to record the good and bad deeds of everyone.

During this month, the gates of hell will be opened and hungry ghosts are released to roam the earth and look for food. It’s believed that they‘re hungry as they do not have descendants to make offerings to them. Taoist priests would perform rites and make food offerings, while devotees would visit temples to repent their sins and pray for happiness and avoidance of disasters.



Buddhists observe Zhongyuan Festival as Yu Lan Pen (盂兰盆) Festival, to both appease from the netherworld and emphasise filial piety.

Buddhists also use this festival to commemorate Mulian’s filial piety towards his mother.

According to legend, Mulian, a disciple of Buddha, was attempting to save his mother from hunger in hell. Mulian looked for his late mother in the netherworld and found her among the hungry ghosts. In one version of the story, Mulian attempted to feed his starving mother, but the food was stolen by other hungry spirits. In another version, he sent her a bowl of rice, but it turned into flaming coals before she could eat it. Mulian sought Buddha’s help, who then taught him to make offerings of “special prayers” and food. Only then was Mulian’s mother relieved of her suffering as a hungry ghost. Since then, Buddhists make it a practice to offer prayers to the dead on the 15th of the seventh lunar month.

Over time, Zhongyuan Festival in Singapore has become a blend of Buddhist and Taoist practices, intertwined with regional folklore and customs. The festival serves as an opportunity for people to honour their ancestors, offer prayers, and make offerings to appease the hungry ghosts, ensuring their well-being and peaceful passage in the afterlife.

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