Photo of the Day: US dollar 'ghost money' seen in eastern Taiwan

Taiwanese burn ghost money to ensure spirits are comfortable in afterlife


(Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An American living in Hualien, Taiwan, came across ghost money with US dollars printed on them at a small shop in Hualien City and bought a pack to burn as a gesture of goodwill to wandering spirits as Taiwan's Ghost Month (鬼月) kicks off.

The first day of Ghost Month, observed in the 7th month of the lunar calendar, fell on Wednesday (Aug. 19) and will run until Sept. 16.

Taiwan's Taoists and Buddhists believe that the gates of the underworld are opened 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.

Many people in Taiwan put out copious amounts of food for the spirits, or for their ancestors, to feast on. Some even burn ghost money, or joss paper, after the ritual to make sure the deceased are well taken care of in the afterlife.

Orrin Hoopman, an American raised in the Seattle area who moved to Taiwan after meeting his wife 15 years ago, told Taiwan News that he purchased one pack of 400 notes of ghost money that resembled the US$100 dollar bills for merely NT$50 (US$1.70). The shop is located in Hualien City, adjacent to a square used for holding large ghost month celebrations and burning joss paper, he said.

Hoopman said that a high-quality printing technique had been used and that he was surprised to discover the faux bills were also printed on the reverse side, unlike traditional ghost money.

Copious amounts of food left out in Hualien last year for spirits to feast on. (Orrin Hoopman photo)

(Orrin Hoopman photo)

(Orrin Hoopman photo)