Friday, August 17, 2012

The First Day, Aug 17 Of Ghost Month

     August 17 is the first day of ghost month which is in lunar July. What does it mean? Taiwanese believes it is the day that the hell opens its gates and let all ghosts out of hell to have one month summer vacation on the earth. The ghosts will go back to hell on the last day of lunar July.   
This was a ritual ceremony before the deity patrols a
village to get rid of bad spirits. They were the deity's
generals who performed their duty to warn off the devils

     According to the deputy director of Taiwan Folklore  Museum of Asia University, he said that " Ghost Month was actually a good month in Feng Shui. But the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty wanted to enjoy the good lucky alone. He asked the medians to spread rumors that ghosts would appear on the earth and bring bad lucky to people and urge people to avoid any ritual activities which would take away his good Feng Shui. Also most Taiwanese were the descendants of the Ming dynasty. Taiwan still preserves the Ghost Month spirits at its best in all the Chinese societies." 
     Ghost Month is also coordinated with the Taoism and Buddhism beliefs which encourage people to worship and commemorate their ancestors. It also encourages people to give their hand to people who need help. It will bring good Karma to people. If you walk on the streets in Taiwan, you could see a lot of stores or houses displaying some food, meats, and fruit in front of their houses or stores on small tables with incenses and paper money burning on the first, the 15th, and the last day of ghost month. The food and paper money are for the homeless ghosts which don't have any descendants. It also means that "I provide you (ghosts) food for your needs, so please don't bring any harms to me or my family." 

Believers chant or communicate
with their deities through the smoke
from the burning incenses.  
     Today the superstitious belief has less effect on the young generation. But the old generation will ask their kids to do less traveling, not going to beaches, or avoiding any non emergency operation or hospitalization. They believe ghosts would take one's life to replace its position in hell and the ghost could go to another stage of the transmigration. Other don't-do things in Ghost month are not getting married, not purchasing or moving into a new house, or not hanging clothes outdoor at night or overnight. 
I used to be a nurse and worked in a Surgical
Intensive Care Unit in Taipei. Every unit
in the hospital had to perform Baibai which means
 worship on the 15th day to provide food to the homeless
 ghosts. One of the taboos is not to use a pineapple
on the worship table. Why? Because the pronunciation
of pineapple in Taiwanese is the same as the meaning
of flourish. It could bring the unit more sick patients
 or more Code Blue cases. Superstitious? Better to
believe it, than having the bad luck. But its ok to worship with a pineapple for any business which asks
 for prosperity.      
      Actually during this month there are many ritual activities held in Taiwan, especial in temples. The most famous ceremony is the Chungyuan Festival in Keelung. It starts from the 13th through the 15th day. The climax of the celebration is on the 14th (releasing water lanterns into the ocean) to the 15th ( Da Baibai (big worship).) If you are in the north of Taiwan, it is highly recommend to visit  but it also means it will be packed with a lot of people and heavy traffic. 
      Another festival is Qianggu Festival which is held in the town of Touchen in Ilan on the last day of Ghost Month.


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  2. I'd never heard of this tradition before! It's like a second Halloween!


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