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‘Good brothers’ in town as hungry Ghost month gets into full swing

GEORGE TOWN: Chinese opera, puppet shows and singing performances are the order of the day as the Hungry Ghost month gets into full swing.
And none of the audience will be brave enough to be seated on the front row – these are reserved for the “good brothers” (hau siong ti in Mandarin), a rather polite way of referring to the ghosts, until Sept 19.
After that, the Chinese believe that the “gates of hell” closes again and the ghosts will be forced to return to their woeful realm.
But until then, nearly every temple and Chinese association in Penang will hold nightly shows and kotai (singing) performances as is customary to entertain ghosts while they feast on the offerings.
Penang Teong Guan Association chairman Heng Yak Hoi said most celebration committees would consult the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) through a medium to decide on which performance to opt for.
“The usual choices are Hokkien, Cantonese or Teowchew operas, puppet shows or modern singing. They can also present a mix over the three or five days of their celebrations,’’ he said, adding that more than 200 such committees, called Phor Thor in Hokkien, would hold street celebrations all over Penang.
Penangites and tourists also get to explore the nightlife of George Town on foot as they revel in the celebrations.
In Jalan Samak, off Jalan Datuk Keramat, septuagenarian Tan Li Ching was spotted enjoying a Cantonese opera performance.
Tan, 78, said she loved watching Cantonese operas for their plots.
“Normally, I watch for about an hour-and-a-half,” she said when met at the show on Thursday, adding that she learnt the Cantonese dialect while working in Hong Kong during her younger days.
Factory operator Jacky Lim, 50, said it was hard to find big crowds for Cantonese operas in Penang because the majority of Penangites spoke Hokkien.
The Cantonese Penangite said it was his first time enjoying a Cantonese opera show.
“A friend sent me the timetable of opera shows during the Hungry Ghost month, so I dropped by as I’m staying nearby,” he added.
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