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Hungry Ghost Festival

Picture 37 of 101

Excerpt from Nine Dragons (Photo by Steven Vascik) The dawn came up pink and gray. The harbor was already busy as workboats and ferries crisscrossed paths in what looked like some kind of natural choreography. Bosch saw a low-lying mist clinging to the towers in Central and Wan Chai and across the harbor in Kowloon. He smelled smoke. "It smells like L.A. after the riots," he said. "Like the city's on fire." "It is in a way," Eleanor said. "We're half way through Yue Laan." "Yeah, what's that?" "The hungry ghost festival. It began last week. It's set to the Chinese calendar. It is said that on the fourteenth day of the seventh lunar month the gates of hell open and all the evil ghosts stalk the world. Believers burn offerings to appease their ancestors and ward off the evil spirits." "What kind of offerings?" "Mostly paper money and papier-mâché facsimiles of things like plasma screens and houses and cars. Things the spirits supposedly need on the other side. Sometimes people burn the real things, too." She laughed and then continued. "I once saw somebody burning an air conditioner. Sending an air conditioner to an ancestor in hell, I guess." Bosch remembered his daughter talking about this once. She said she had seen someone burning an entire car.