Journey of the Hungry Ghost

Office of Public Art

Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Journey of the Hungry Ghost is a participatory, site-specific ritual based on Chinese ancestral worship practices. Homewood Cemetery contains the earliest Chinese cemetery in the Eastern United States. In 1901, the Chinese Funeral Association purchased the plot as a temporary burial site for Chinese migrant laborers who passed away abroad. Although it was intended that their remains eventually be sent home, the deceased often lacked the required resources and connections to do so. Homewood Cemetery has therefore become a permanent resting ground for 283 migrants, mostly from the Taishan and Kaiping regions, where the artist’s own ancestors originate. Hungry ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who forgot to pay tribute to them or who were not given proper funerals. Therefore, it is important to give offerings in order to appease the ghosts and relieve their suffering. This project engages contemporary Chinese residents of Pittsburgh in bringing offerings and creating altars for the early migrants. The project will be documented through photography for exhibition as part of the Office of Public Art.



Lena Chen is a Chinese American writer and artist creating performances and socially engaged art. Awarded “Best Emerging Talent” at B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, her work has appeared at Transmediale, Färgfabriken, Baltimore Museum of Art, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and Centre for Contemporary Art (Derry~Londonderry), among others. She has been awarded grants and residencies from UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, Millay Colony for the Arts, Office of Public Art, Burning Man Global Arts Fund, Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and Arthur Boskamp Foundation. She has spoken at Oxford, Yale, Stanford, and SXSW. She earned a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University, and is a MFA candidate at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art.