Saturday, September 5, 2015

a taiwanese ghost festival

Here in Taiwan, we are in the midst of ghost month. 

Ghost month is all about roaming hungry spirits. According to Chinese culture, for one whole month, ghosts are released from hell to roam the world, and their living relatives appease them by offering food and other goods like money and clothes. After one month, they go back to hell and things return to normal for the living. 

One of my favorite things about ghost month is Hsinchu City's parade. Last weekend, we headed downtown with a bunch of friends and joined the sea of people all wanting to catch a glimpse of this surreal and eerie procession. A coworker explained to me that these giant figures are generals, otherwise known as spiritual police, whose job it is to ward off and capture evil spirits. 

Besides depending on these generals to keep you safe, other traditions persist about how to live with ghosts during ghost month. At first, I thought some were really silly and strange, but then I remembered that my culture tells children to leave cookies for a fat man who breaks into their homes and leaves gifts. 

So.

In order to stay safe during this spooky month, people are advised to follow these rules. There are more, but these were some of my favorites:

No swimming
No going out alone at night
No whistling, especially at nighttime
No picking up money off the street
No killing bugs in your house
No hanging up clothes outside to dry
No leaning against a wall
And my favorite: no peeing on trees
(If you want to know the logic behind these rules, 
check out this article!)

I don't know about you, but if I was a roaming spirit, these tall & ornate generals sure would scare me away! 
When we finally left the parade, we were hot & sweaty & reeked of firework smoke. And I am pretty sure our lungs and ears were permanently damaged, but I absolutely cannot wait to go back next year! 









A Hole In My Shoe
Packing my Suitcase

16 comments

  1. I envy you. The Chinese have such wonderful traditions and festivals. We lived in Hong Kong for four years when we were younger and every festival was such fun.

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    1. I bet living in Hong Kong was such an experience! Heck, just flying into Hong Kong is quite an experience! I love living in Taiwan. It is such a colorful and fun place.

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  2. Even though I'm Chinese American, I had never heard of Hungry Ghost Festival until I moved to Malaysia a few years ago. In Penang, one of the popular traditions is to put on Chinese operas for the ghosts, reserving the front rows for them. Sometimes, the entire tent must be filled with ghosts as no living people are watching the show. It's interesting to see how it's celebrated in Taiwan. What interesting rules.

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    1. Really? How interesting. I know I had never heard of it until we stumbled across this parade by accident four three years ago! It is such an interesting idea for me. I know that I think twice before squashing bugs during this month!

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  3. We have the Ghost Festival in Singapore as well, but I've not seen a parade like that. It's looks very cool.

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    1. It was sensory overload and I loved it! Some of the generals really wigged me out. I imagine they give some children nightmares.

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  4. It's always interesting to see what other cultures celebrate! It's looks fascinating, although I don't think I'm sold on crazy crowds and it being in the dark... two of my least favourite things. I'll just enjoy the photos :)

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    1. The dark made it so much more...eerie! I think that is probably how a ghost festival should be, yeah? There was this one general I couldn't stand to look at. His tongue kept flicking in and out of his mouth like a snake. Yikes!

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  5. Oh Chinese traditions! I lived in Hong Kong when I was younger, and I remember hearing that it was ghost festival and that I shouldn't go out at night alone and I was SO scared! I never saw a parade like the one in your post though. Very cool!

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    1. OMG! That would totally freak me out too. I bet parents like it though; it means kids are less likely to break curfew or sneak out late at night!

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  6. hahaha, what a strange tradition, so many superstitions!! The rules are the best :D

    Thank you so much for joining #MondayEscapes

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    1. I know! I find the one about the clothes fascinating!

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  7. How fun! The rules seem so random. The not picking up money rule is a complete opposite from "find a penny pick it up and all day long you'll have good luck."

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  8. Amazing photos, looks absolutely fascinating

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