Hungry ghosts (e-kuei) are Chinese Buddhist
ancestors who are in constant torment because they are
starving and thirsty but cannot receive nourishment.
Whatever they try to eat or drink bursts into fire and then
turns into ashes. The origin of a Hungry ghost is an
Hungry ghosts are beings condemned to perpetual hunger,
with bulging bellies, grotesque faces, and wispy hair. They
are fated to eat only human waste: dead flesh, and drink
splashes of liquid from public wells.
Essentially the psychological states that motivate the
ten unwholesome courses of action in life - strong greed, hatred, and
delusion — lead to rebirth in the unhappy destinies or
‘descents’: in a hell realm, as a hungry ghost, an animal,
or a jealous god. In fact rather a precise correlation
exists here: dominated by greed one becomes a hungry ghost,
a class of beings ever discontent and anguished because of
being unable to satisfy their greed.
There is hope for them, however. The Chinese Festival of
Ghosts includes a ritual designed specifically to provide them
with sanctified water that, accompanied by chant and magic, can
release them from their terrible plight.
She is the
moon-heart's furnace, brooding.
Her Fortune's flown, arrows pursuing.
Mouthless, throatless, she gorges sun and moon.
Beth Yahp, Transformation Song