Navigation bar main page key to sysmbols

Ghost Month

[cultures and traditions: Taiwan]

According to Chinese folklore, there is an increase in the incidence of accidents and deaths during the seventh month of the lunar calendar, an occurrence attributed to underworld spirits visiting the earth during this time. During Ghost Month, people prepare big feasts to indulge the many roaming ghosts.

Eastern societies, unlike many western societies, traditionally try to appease the dead, rather than trying to banish them, by inviting them temporarily into the world of the living. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Taiwan during Ghost Month. On the first day of the seventh lunar month, 'Open Day' in hell is held, the gates to the underworld are opened and the spirits are allowed to cross over into the living world.

Not only do the Taiwanese accept these hauntings with admirable equanimity, they actually give their ethereal guests the full VIP 5-star treatment. At the Chung Yuan Festival (about halfway through the month), huge banquet tables are set out in temple courtyards and mountains of fish, vegetables, meat and other delicacies are offered as sacrifice; hanging lanterns are erected to guide the ghosts to the table; non-stop operas entertain during dinner and fake money is burnt so that guests have a bit of pocket-money to spend when they return to hell.

This hospitality is not entirely altruistic - it's insurance against paranormal acts of retribution.

Other do's and dont's to be observed during ghost month include the following:
- make offerings, especially the burning of "ghost money" (An estimated 220,000 tons of ghost money is burned every year around Taiwan)
- weddings, special plans, business deals and outings should be put on hold till the end of the month;
- no whistling, whistling is not a good idea, whistling will lead the ghost straight to your home;
- talking ill of the dead (even if it's true) will just bring tears and heartache;
- special care should be taken when walking along riverbanks where a water ghost can easily steal a living spirit; and
- adding to the numbers by burying the dead is, unfortunately, not a good idea.

On the 30th day of the month, the gates of hell are closed again and the ghosts return to the other side.


Ghost Month: Opening the Gates of Hades
Ghost Month in Taiwan and China