Buddhist: Ullambana continues with … Hachigatsu Bon

Asian countries come alive during Bon season, which continues into August and September. Photo in public domainTHURSDAY, AUGUST 30: Obon season continues in Asian communities from Japan to Hawaii, as the Buddhist-Confucian custom enters full blossom. Devotees have been visiting the graves of ancestors and honoring deceased souls for more than 500 years during Bon Odori; the lunar calendar deems “Hachigatsu Bon,” or the “old observance,” during mid-August. (ReadTheSpirit reported on Obon in July, when the season began: read more here.) Bon dances, tea ceremonies, fireworks and carnivals have marked a public Obon, while many decorate household altars and hold reunions. (Wikipedia has details.)


Each Bon festival ends with Toro Nagashi, the floating of paper lanterns down rivers and bodies of water. Traditionally, handmade paper lanterns (learn how to make one here) are lit with candles, symbolically returning the ancestors’ spirits to the world of the dead. The Sian Chye Tong temple in Hye Keat Estate will be setting off a massive paper ship “to the Buddha Pure Land” on Sept. 8, marking the end of Bon season there. (Read an article in The Star.) At 6.1 m long and 4.6 m high, the paper ship took 10 volunteers approximately one month to build. It’s believed that on the 15th day of Bon Odori, the realms of heaven, hell and the living are opened; Buddhists attempt to ease the sufferings of the deceased through rituals on these auspicious days.

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