I currently live in Taiwan, and we are currently experiencing "ghost month". The Wikipedia article for Ghost Festival starts with:

The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, Zhongyuan Festival or Yulan Festival (traditional Chinese: 盂蘭節) is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in Asian countries.

The use of "traditional festival" suggests it may be more of a cultural tradition than a strict Buddhist concept.

Does the idea that hungry ghosts or spirits escape from (some subset of) Hell once a year and need to be fed have any root in the early origins of Buddhism, or is this an add-on concept coming from cultural ideas or perhaps from Taoism?

2 Answers 2


It appears this practice originated from Taoism, not from Buddhism. However, there is an account of hungry ghosts stories in Buddhism. (Petavattu) In Sri Lanka, we pass merits to departed relatives but there is no specific date for it.


My person was not so avaliable here, those days. Here maybe some helpful links and inspirations, Mr/Mrs Uhoh.

The great buddhist ancestor festival - share ways of your country, tradition

It, if researching, has next to in every country it's long time till current tradition and is not that much connected with religions direct in it's performences. Such as a hell-door story, king and monks, is also base of the culture here in the country of the Khmers.

Pchum Ben is considered unique to Cambodia, however, there are merit-transference ceremonies that can be closely compared to it in Sri Lanka (i.e., offering food to the ghosts of the dead), and in its broad outlines, it even resembles the Taiwanese Ghost Festival (i.e., especially in its links to the notion of a calendrical opening of the gates of hell, King Yama, and so on) from wiki

It's the time of many illness, (hot, heavy rain, cold,... hard work on field.... was troubled by my self by heavy malaria attack those days and many villagers have/had also troubles these days. Not so access to medicine in earlier times, the "time" probably "caused" more death and pain as other)

Wiki might also give food for thought in regard of origin and practicing: Ghost Festival

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