Kai Xin’s Hungry Ghost

Kai Xin’s Hungry Ghost

 

Kai Xin prepares her pile of money and life's accessories to be burnt for the hungry ghosts.f/1.4, 1/30 sec, at 35mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Kai Xin prepares her pile of money and life’s accessories to be burnt for the hungry ghosts.
f/1.4, 1/30 sec, at 35mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Yesterday I was told that there would be a Chinese opera in Georgetown. It was supposed to be at 8 o’clock in some obscure location downtown. After visiting several locations I finally arrived at a large platform stage that I assumed would be for the opera. Excited — I asked about when the performers be showing up, only to find out there was no opera. Apparently it had already happened in the afternoon. Bad timing on my part. So I did the next best thing I just started driving.

Last night was the 15th of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar. This is a night when the most ghosts are released from hell and roam around. It’s on this night that the local Chinese burn all kinds of pretend paper money to keep these ghost content over the next year. Many of the bills are labeled “Hell notes”. Apparently, it’s not limited to burning money, small pieces of paper with images of clothing and everyday items like food, make up and even scissors tossed into the fire to keep the spirits happy.

While driving around looking for the nonexistent opera I saw dozens and dozens of small fires all throughout the city on what seemed to be on every street corner where people were burning their paper money. It was at one of these fires where I met Elsa, Mr. Goh and his daughter Kai Xin. Like every religious or cultural custom the tradition is passed down through the children. Last night I got to watch and photograph as Kai Xin learned how to appease the hungry ghosts. It was very reminiscent of my childhood of hiding Easter eggs and being all excited about what was to happen next. If you think about it, what child doesn’t like to play with fire?

 

(Click on the images to view it at full size.)

 

Fires of burning money seem to be on every street corner in Georgetown last night. f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 1600 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Fires of burning money seem to be on every street corner in Georgetown last night.
f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 1600 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Elsa passes Kai Xin bags of paper money called "Hell notes". f/2.8, 1/12 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Elsa passes Kai Xin bags of paper money called “Hell notes”.
f/2.8, 1/12 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Kai Xin and Elsa empty the money onto the ground in front of Elsa’s and Mr. Goh business.
f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Kai Xin carefully unties a sack of Hell notes and to the pending bonfire. f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Kai Xin carefully unties a sack of notes and to the pending bonfire.
f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Kai Xin and her father spread the money loosely across pile to ensure that it all burns up.f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Kai Xin and her father spread the money loosely across pile to ensure that it all burns up.
f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

A 5,000,000 Hell Bank Note. f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

A 5,000,000 Hell Bank Note.
f/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Food and a stack of paper with symbolic inscriptions ready to be burnt.f/4, 1/10 sec, at 35mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Food and a stack of paper with symbolic inscriptions ready to be burnt.
f/4, 1/10 sec, at 35mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Mr Goh, Elsa and Kai Xin offer prayers to the hungry ghost waving the traditional joss sticks (Incense sticks).f/2.8, 1/17 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Mr Goh, Elsa and Kai Xin offer prayers to the hungry ghost waving the traditional joss sticks (Incense sticks).
f/2.8, 1/17 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Kai Xin watches as her father put the joss sticks in with the other offerings and prepares to light the money.f/2.8, 1/25 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Kai Xin watches as her father put the joss sticks in with the other offerings and prepares to light the money.
f/2.8, 1/25 sec, at 14mm, 3200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

Kai Xin watches on with excitement as her father throws paper notes over the fire to burn.f/2.8, 1/30 sec, at 14mm, 2500 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Kai Xin watches on with excitement as her father throws paper notes over the fire to burn.
f/2.8, 1/30 sec, at 14mm, 2500 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

With the fire underway Kai Xin has appeased the hungry ghosts.f/2.8, 1/30 sec, at 14mm, 640 ISO, on a X-Pro1

With the fire underway Kai Xin has appeased the hungry ghosts.
f/2.8, 1/30 sec, at 14mm, 640 ISO, on a X-Pro1

 

 

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.

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