Creepy No More

Inventing the Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Cultural Festival in Hong Kong

In: Review of Religion and Chinese Society
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  • 1 Hong Kong Shue Yan University

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Ever since the classification of Hong Kong’s Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Festival as a national-grade intangible cultural heritage in 2011, a series of conservation activities have been initiated by some local Chaozhou communities, ngos, and the Hong Kong government. One of these activities is the Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Cultural Festival, and this paper discusses the heritagization of religious festivals by examining the invention of this festival. The Cultural Festival reveals how the elite-cum-businessmen attempt to educate the general public, to promote the festival so as to reverse its decline in popularity, and to celebrate ethnic culture and Chinese culture. To overwrite the old-fashioned stereotypical creepy images associated with the traditional Hungry Ghosts Festival, new programs featuring spectacular and fun elements have been invented. This paper delineates how these newly invented programs highlight and promote moral and cultural meanings and capture the attention of the general public, especially the younger generation, thereby attracting wider participation in the festival. I will discuss how the spectatorial, participatory, and educational aspects of the Cultural Festival are meant to attract domestic visitors as well as international tourists. Nevertheless, the majority of worshippers and local organizers do not have a significant role in the Cultural Festival.

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