Top 10 taboos to watch out for during Taiwan's Ghost Month

Top 10 ways to avoid a phantom faux pas during Ghost Month in Taiwan

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(Photo by flickr user Sowhuan)

(Photo by flickr user Sowhuan)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's Ghost Month (鬼月), observed in the 7th month of the lunar calendar, is once again here, this year running from Aug. 11 to Sept. 9, and Taiwan News has created a list of the top 10 most serious taboos to avoid during this month in Taiwan.

It is believed by devout Taoists and Buddhists that during this time of year the gates of hell are opened for a full month for "hungry ghosts" to roam the world of the living in search of food, money, entertainment, and possibly souls. 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.

The following are the top 10 tips on how to avoid committing a phantasmic faux pas during Ghost Month in Taiwan:

10. Do not sit in the front row of Gezaixi shows

It is thought that hungry ghosts pursue many hobbies they had in life, such as watching Gezaixi (歌仔戲,Taiwanese opera) shows. Therefore, the first row is reserved for spectral spectators during Ghost Month and it is highly bad form to take their seats. 

9. Do not lean against the wall

Ghosts are thought to stick on walls because they find them cooler during the summer heat, or that they are attracted to their yin energy, either way, people are admonished not to lean against them to avoid making the ghouls' work too easy. 

8. Do not take the last bus

It is believed that the early morning hours after midnight are the strongest in yin energy, and therefore it is advisable to avoid taking the last bus of the night to avoid being taken away by a phantom driver. 

7. Do not go out alone at night

After sunset, wandering ghosts seek out living hosts that they can possess. For this reason, Taiwanese try to avoid going out alone at night during this period, especially young adults and children, because they are considered particularly vulnerable. 

6. Do not buy house, car or other major purchase

Many Taiwanese avoid buying and moving into houses during Ghost Month as it is considered highly unlucky and they could end up with a haunted a house and ghastly roommates. Other major transactions of money such as car purchases and business deals are strictly shunned during this period. 

5. If patted on the shoulder, do not look back

The living are believed to have a protective invisible flame that emanates from either shoulder, and thus when one suddenly turns their head to look back, that protective flame is snuffed out. Apparently, ghouls with guile will pat their victims on the back hoping they will suddenly turn their head, making them vulnerable to attack. The solution is to turn the whole body at once instead of just the head. 

4. Do not whistle, particularly in the dark

Taiwanese have fear of whistling in general because they believe it attracts evil spirits that will follow them around and bring misfortune. It is believed that this effect is magnified during Ghost Month, particularly at night. 

3. Do not hang clothes to dry outside at night

There are two schools of thought on why hanging clothes on the balcony late at night is bad during Ghost Month. One theory states that hungry ghosts are cold from suffering in the desolate underworld and they seek warmth by putting on the clothes. The other, more sinister rationale is that evil spirits will wear the clothes of the living to enable them sneak into their homes and do bad deeds. 

2. Call them "good brothers," not "ghosts"

Actually talking about ghosts out loud, especially at night is thought to draw their attention and bring bad luck. Therefore, the more polite way to speak of members of the spirit world that wander during this period is "good brothers." It shows them a degree of respect and hopefully encourages them to behave in a "brotherly" fashion. 

1. Do not go swimming

This by far the best known and most feared taboo as it is believed that evil spirits who had drowned lick their chops at the chance of drowning a swimmer to gain an opportunity at rebirth. Taiwanese stay away from beaches in droves throughout Ghost Month, though swimming pools during the day seem to be considered relatively safe.  

By the same token, it is also considered highly dangerous to take a shower after midnight because evil spirits are more emboldened by the combination of water and the late hour.