The top 10 ‘taboos’ to avoid dur­ing Ghost Month in Tai­wan

The China Post - - LOCAL -

The Chi­nese Ghost Month ( ) , ob­served in the sev­enth month of the lu­nar cal­en­dar, is once again upon us, this year run­ning from Aug. 14 to Sept. 12. Dur­ing the fes­ti­val the gates of hell are opened and all of the hun­gry ghosts are re­leased to the world in search of food, money, en­ter­tain­ment, and what not.

A “hun­gry ghost” is a be­ing that has been sent to the un­der­world to suf­fer an eter­nal state of hunger for their mis­deeds or for not hav­ing a proper burial. Once a year, they are set free from hell and are given the op­por­tu­nity to sa­ti­ate some of their crav­ings and per­haps gain some good karma for a rein­car­na­tion into a bet­ter life with the help of their fam­ily mem­bers.

Whether you be­lieve in ghosts or not, the fol­low­ing are some handy tips to avoid any phan­tom faux pas or ghoul­ish gaffes dur­ing Ghost Month:

1. Don’t go swimming: This re­stric­tion seems to have the widest con­sen­sus among those who ob­serve Ghost Month. It is con­sid­ered highly dan­ger­ous to go swimming be­cause it is be­lieved that evil spir­its that had drowned may try to drown the swim­mer to gain a chance at re­birth. The up­side for non-be­liev­ers is that the beaches are pretty much empty for the whole month.

2. Don’t go out alone at night: Young chil­dren and young adults in par­tic­u­lar should avoid go­ing out alone af­ter dark as it is be­lieved that wan­der­ing ghosts can more easily pos­sess the young.

3. Don’t whis­tle, es­pe­cially af­ter dark: Whistling is thought to at­tract evil spir­its and once they’ve been lured in, they may fol­low the per­son around for long pe­ri­ods of time, bring­ing ill for­tune.

4. Don’t sit in the front row of Geza­ixi shows: This is prob­a­bly one of the big­gest pit­falls for new­bie for­eign­ers dur­ing month. Be­ware that the front row of Geza­ixi (Tai­wanese opera) shows per­formed on the streets should be avoided at all costs be­cause it is strictly re­served for spec­tral spec­ta­tors only.

5. Don’t pick up money on the street: Peo­ple are ad­mon­ished not to pick up real money or take it home be­cause it will bring them bad luck. Pick­ing up a hell bank note (joss pa­per) is con­sid­ered an in­sult to the spir­its and a bad omen as well.

6. Don’t just turn your head around if some­one pats you on the shoul­der: It is be­lieved that the liv­ing have two pro­tec­tive flames, one on each shoul­der. If a ghost pats you on the back and you only turn your head, you’ll snuff out that pro­tec­tive flame, thus mak­ing you vul­ner­a­ble. To avoid this, turn the whole body at once in­stead of just the head.

7. Do not kill rare in­sects in your house: Some be­lieve that their an­ces­tors come to visit their rel­a­tives in the rein­car­nated form of a rare in­sect. The def­i­ni­tion of “rare” is de­bat­able, but ba­si­cally a type of in­sect that has rarely if ever been spot­ted in your house be­fore such as but­ter­flies, grass- hop­pers or moths, and for their part, roaches are prob­a­bly not con­sid­ered “rare.”

8. Don’t hang clothes out­side to dry: The think­ing with this is that de­vi­ous spir­its will wear your clothes as a way to sneak into your house.

9. Don’t lean against the wall: Ghosts ap­par­ently like to stick on walls be­cause they’re cooler, so don’t push your luck and lean against them dur­ing the month.

10. Don’t pee on a tree: Ap­par­ently, sol­diers in the field know well that uri­nat­ing on a tree could anger tree spir­its which will seek vengeance upon you.

Some other im­por­tant things to avoid do­ing dur­ing the month in­clude any­thing that you wouldn’t want hav­ing bad juju as­so­ci­ated with such as a new busi­ness ven­ture, mov­ing into a new house, or get­ting mar­ried. Avoid wear­ing an out­fit that is uni­formly black, white or red. Drive ex­tra safe be­cause ghosts that died in car ac­ci­dents will be try­ing to en­cour­age you to take their place. Don’t tell ghost sto­ries or talk about ghosts in gen­eral dur­ing this pe­riod. Fi­nally, it seems like a no-brainer, but def­i­nitely avoid dis­turb­ing any of the of­fer­ings made to the spir­its in any way; if you do so in­ad­ver­tently, apol­o­gize pro­fusely to both the liv­ing and the dead.

Things peo­ple are en­cour­aged to do:

1. Go to a tem­ple and make of­fer­ings: Make food of­fer­ings and burn in­cense and ask for pro­tec­tion of the de­ity at a nearby tem­ple.

2. Burn hell notes: Burn joss pa­per on the side­walk in front of your house through­out the month as an of­fer­ing to your an­ces­tors. On the 15th day of the month, known as Hun­gry Ghost Fes­ti­val ( ), you can burn joss pa­per for lonely, wan­der­ing spir­its in a ges­ture of good will.

3. Con­sider a veg­e­tar­ian diet dur­ing the month: Those of the Bud­dhist faith prac­tice veg­e­tar­i­an­ism in this month in or­der to trans­mute and ab­solve the suf­fer­ings of the de­ceased. Luck­ily, Tai­wan has a plethora of tasty veg­e­tar­ian restau­rants all over the is­land to choose from.

4. Wear a pro­tec­tive amulet: In or­der to hedge your bets fur­ther, you can wear an amulet de­pict­ing Chung Kwei, the Taoist de­ity who spe­cial­izes in sub­du­ing and slay­ing de­mons and evil en­ti­ties. Other pro­tec­tor deities that can be worn in­clude Guan Yu.

5. Con­trib­ute to char­ity: Do­nate to char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions and do good deeds to build up more pos­i­tive karma.

If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might wit­ness an “Eight Gen­er­als” (Ba­ji­a­jiang) per­for­mance or pa­rade. The Eight Gen­er­als are a kind of spir­i­tual po­lice force that ward off, nab, and pun­ish evil spir­its. They are por­trayed by troupes of young peo­ple with col­or­ful cos­tumes and makeup to de­pict spe­cific gen­er­als. The most im­por­tant thing is to keep a re­spect­ful dis­tance from them and don’t cross their pro­tec­tive line.

CNA

A theater troupe per­forms at an event ahead of the Chi­nese Ghost Month, Hualien, Mon­day, Aug. 10.

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