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Chinese Culture >> Culture in Taiwan >> Taiwan Ghost Festival

Taiwan Mid-Summer Ghost Festival

For the entire seventh moon, ghosts dominate the island of Taiwan. The Mid-Summer Ghost Festival begins on the 1st day of the seventh lunar month and is marked by opening the tower gate of the "Old Venerable" Temple. On the 12th day, lamps on the Main Altar are lighted, the spectacular multi-colored illumination descends every comer of Keelung. On the 13th day, procession of dipper lanterns is held and greeted by attendants. On the 14th day, a parade is held for releasing the water lanterns.

This entire month is a period when its is believed that the spirits of the dead walk the earth. According to Taoist beliefs, this festival of deliverance originated on the birthday of the Chinese Guardian of Hell who governs all matters in the underworld and decreed an amnesty out of mercy so all lost souls could be released back to the mortal world from hell on the 1st day of July To enjoy incense, candles and food offered to the spirits for a period of one month so they might be converted to "The Way."

The Buddhists designate the mid-summer sacrifices as the Ghost Festival Legend has it that Moginlin, a disciple of Buddha Sakyamuni, entered the path of hungry spirits in Hell to rescue his deceased mother from suffering there. On the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, five fruits and a hundred delicacies were offered in ten directions to all the ghosts in space to relieve his mother's suffering in hell. Both of these interpretations en-compass the Chinese spirits of forbearance, charity and filial piety.

During this month many special celebrations are held, with sacrifices and offerings laid out to feed and appease the wandering lost souls. The gates of tombs and graveyards are left open to allow the dead access to the world, and lanterns are floated in the sea to guide back the souls of those lost beneath the waves.

On the 15th day, water lanterns are officially released and sacrificial rites for delivering the ghosts are performed both in public and private. A ceremonial dance is also performed to welcome deity Chung Kwei to awe the ghosts and keep them in order. 

All over Taiwan, Ghost month is regarded with a great deal of superstition, and it is believed to be unlucky to travel, marry or hold a funeral during this time, before the ghosts once again depart the earth, and return to the fires of hell.