Top 10 taboos to steer clear of during Ghost Month in Taiwan

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The gates of hell opened Sunday (Aug. 8), marking the start of Ghost Month (鬼月), and numerology expert Tang Chen-wei (湯鎮瑋) from the Human Thesaurus Media Group has listed 10 taboos observed by many Taiwanese during this period.

Ghost Month falls on the seventh month of the lunar calendar, which this year runs from Aug. 8 to Sept. 6, when Taoists and Buddhists believe the gates of the underworld are opened so “hungry ghosts” can 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 received a proper burial.

The terms “good brother” (好兄弟) and “good sister” (好姐妹) are considered the preferable terms to refer to lost souls, as opposed to “ghosts,” to avoid offending them. These apparitions are not worshiped by anyone as ancestors and vary from the pitiful to the dangerous.

The following are 10 taboos to keep in mind in order to avoid a macabre misstep during Ghost Month in Taiwan:

10. Don’t open an umbrella indoors

The umbrella is traditionally used to collect souls and is also a typical hiding place for good brothers. If one opens an umbrella in the home, spirits are liable to hide underneath.

9. Don’t hang windchimes

During the seventh month of the lunar year, if a windchime is hung above a doorway, balcony, or window and good brothers hear it, they may think it is a signal to enter, especially if it is copper. Some say this is because windchimes sound similar to the ringing of the soul.

8. Don’t hang clothes out to dry at night

Tang said that good brothers like to cling to dark, damp places or objects. After sunset, wet clothes left outside can eaily attract them, and when the clothing is brought back indoors, it is likely to include some uninvited guests.

7. Don’t go out alone at night

Nocturnal activities, such as nighttime tours, walks, or cemetery visits, must be avoided at all costs during Ghost Month. Tang said this because the yang energy (陽氣) is weak after the sun goes down, and those who are more sensitive or unlucky can easily encounter evil or be disturbed by an ethereal entity.

6. Don’t go to the seaside (or riverside) or mountains after 5 p.m.

After the gates of hell are opened, it is believed that water ghosts — evil spirits of people that drowned — may try to drown swimmers to gain a chance at rebirth. A reason for not staying in the mountains after sunset is that yin energy (陰氣) is heavy at night, and people can be more easily frightened or suffer accidents.

5. Don’t burn incense and pray at temples

During Ghost Month, many good brothers will gather near temples, disrupting nearby magnetic fields. If one has poor luck or a weak constitution, it is easy to get stuck with yin energy after visiting a temple.

4. Don’t buy a new house or car

Home and car sales drop significantly during Ghost Month in Taiwan. Many Taiwanese are afraid of buying an “unclean” haunted house or encountering misfortune when buying a car.

3. Don’t tap or whistle in the middle of the night

Whistling or playing a flute at night will make good brothers think someone is calling for them. The same applies to tapping on objects, especially bowls, which could attract a gang of spooks to gather.

2. Don’t leave chopsticks standing upright in a bowl

Sticking chopsticks vertically in a rice bowl is always bad form because they resemble incense sticks, causing good brothers to mistakenly believe an offering is being made to them. People who leave their chopsticks upright could find themselves having to share their meal with some dark diners.

1. Don’t take pictures at night

Avoid taking photos or videos in dark corners, especially at night. Otherwise, a phantom photobomber might ruin the picture.

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