Be Nice To Restless Spirits – Ghost Month in Taiwan

On the first day we toured Taipei we saw people burn paper in metal burners the size of a tar bucket. Our guide said, “Oh, Ghost Month is starting.”  We’ve learned since that this is quite a big deal. 

Burner for paper money that come in variations

 

According to the Centered On Taipei (Summer 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 10), the Ghost Month is always the 7th lunar month of the year. It is reserved for the dead who parished far away from home with no one to perform their burials. “The Chinese believe these people then become ghosts or wandering souls, and can cause problems for the living if not regularly appeased.” So on the first day of the Ghost Month, “… which begins on August 10th, 2010, the Gates of Heaven and Hell open, the dead walk the earth for one months – and they’re in need of food and entertainment. ”  Ah ha, this was why we saw shop-owners and others burn paper money and present food offerings. 

Many Taiwanese still believe this is a month of caution. Here are a short list to guide those who are ignorant like I am: 

“You should: 

– Make offerings of food, drinks, and articles of use to the deceased. 

Offerings in front of a jewelry store

 

– Burn ghost money. 

You Shouldn’t (and the don’ts are three times more): 

– Go swimming – swimmers can be pulled underwarter by the ghosts of people who drowned there. 

– Go outside after sunset – wandering spirits are everywhere at this time of year. 

– Move house, which upsets spirits looking for their ancestral home. 

– Open a business – it’s bad luck. 

– Hold a wedding ceremony. 

– No calling the spirits ‘ghosts.’ At this time of year, it ‘s polite to call them ‘Good Brothers'” 

Restaurant owner preparing offerings

 

On the 29th day of the month, the Gates of Heaven and Hells close and ghost return to their underworld and Taiwan returns to normal.  

Man, we were so close to offend the restless spirits: got married on August 6th, moved out on the 7th, flew off on the 8th, landed on the 10th, just when the Gates opened. Whew!  Thank you, Good Brothers. We know we are very blessed.

    • Irene Ke
    • August 13th, 2010

    I’m glad to see this message because by reading this entry I know that you have arrived there safe and sound! I find your description of “ghost month” very interesting! — Mainly because I didn’t realize how special it was when I was there. Growing up there, it seemed so nature that we burned “money” (yes, a very special kinds) for our ancestors and the ghosts who couldn’t find a place to stay. We prepared wine and food for them to have a once-a-year feast. It didn’t occur to me it was anything special. Now you pointed it out… Ummm, I guess it is very different, isn’t it?! Hope that things are well. Thinking of you!

    • Deb Schmidle
    • August 15th, 2010

    Good to “hear” your voice online. Thanks for sharing your experiences. BTW, a very close friend of mine wrote a book about paper offerings –For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors: The Chinese Tradition of Paper Offerings
    Janet Lee Scott (Author)

    • Marilyn Mayer
    • August 23rd, 2010

    Ah, xin, you did tempt the fates w/ all of your August happenings! But, you’ve obviously pleased the Good Brothers because you, Jay, & your boys are blessed with many talents, love, & understanding.
    We were in Hong Kong at the beginning of August, & the first thing we did was visit a temple & burn “money.” My husband’s student, Danny, didn’t explain about it’s history, so I’m grateful for your full explanation. I think this will be just one of many advantages to being in Taiwan, i.e. a lot of the Chinese traditions have been able to survive & prosper there. I loved reading about all of “the don’ts.”
    I close in keeping my fingers crossed that the Good Brothers continue to watch over & bless all you!

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