Ghost Month Activities

Photos by MJ Klein

Well, it’s Ghost Month in the Chinese speaking world. I’m not going to explain it, I’m just going to show you what people do for it. Usually at this time of year people are in a very generous mood, and this year was no exception.

I started the evening off (Sunday, August 26) by going to one of the Thai places that I don’t ordinarily frequent. I was hoping to find throngs of happy people partying. But, the place was dead.

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So I took a walk down the street toward Shao-hui’s. These guys were next door, drinking heavily. There were lots of people on the street that evening.


I went to Shao-hui’s and met Hui-chen there. Shao-hui said she was going to grill some food and offered it to us, gratis.


Sure enough, there was a small grill outside and people were free to grill the food themselves. The marinade was excellent!


Later on, Hui-chen took over handling the grill, which by now had been placed on the ground for burning the table in the previous shot. There was a ton of food and Shaohui came out and replenished the food about every 20 minutes.


A Vietnamese contingent was on hand for karaoke in that language.


I had brought a bottle of rum with me, and with mixers, drinking for several hours (and free ice) our bill came to a whopping NT$80. The food was free and I stuffed myself, too. There isn’t any other place that I know of where you could do that except at Shaohui’s.

The next day (Monday) Hui-chen prepared food and other offerings (“bai bai“) for Ghost Month.

I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and shoot photos of what other people were doing. Plus, Hui-chen didn’t really need me and I don’t participate in holiday celebrations. So, I grabbed a bottle of whisky and went on my merry way. It was a gorgeous day and I had about 5 hours to kill.


I firmly resolve that everyone has the right to express their personal beliefs. However, I find the custom of burning stuff rather pointless. It’s a terrible waste of resources and a source of pollution – something that no one needs more of. I was sitting at a table on the sidewalk and with the number of people burning fake money at times I was choking. This was just one of many such demonstrations happening on each street. The smoke smell was overpowering.


People at the far end were burning their own stuff.


There were lots of people on the street walking about, enjoying the beautiful weather.


This is Shaohui’s place.


Next door to Shaohui’s.


Shauhui’s husband tends the fire for the boss (shown at the left) of the restaurant next to theirs. They didn’t mess around with some little burner; no, they used a grill.

Across the street….


And next to that….

Back on our corner. Notice that there are no less than 4 fires going in this shot alone. One neighbor actually had the nerve to complain to Hui-chen that smoke from her fire was blowing towards them. Smoke from their fire was blowing elsewhere too.

On the next block it was the same thing.


Back at Shaohui’s, someone lit a pack of firecrackers.


Here you see Shaohui and her employees offering the money at their observance using a standard burner for that purpose. Note to visitors: These receptacles are not for trash. Disposing of trash in one of these ceremonial burners is disrespectful. Sometimes people make mistakes though.

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The money has little pieces of gold leaf on them. Some versions actually resemble some kind of play money.

Later that evening, all the sacrifices went back inside and people hung out on the street. One of the local bosses saw me and invited me to sit down at his place, even offering me a free bottle of Sang Som. As I said, people seem to be generous at this time of year. I had a great time shooting photos and talking with people in the neighborhood.

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4 comments

  1. Hey MJ. Great photos and blogging. I really enjoyed that post to see and learn more about a culture’s practice that I didn’t understand before.

    It was good to see every day people just doing their thing on this day.

    Thanks mate:)
    Brunty

  2. thanks Brunty. i was just reading your blog about the terrible flooding in your neighborhood. glad you and your family made out ok!

    it was an interesting day for me, walking around and shooting photos. the neighborhood takes on a new feeling during holidays. the next one is the Lunar Moon Festival coming up next month. i’ll have more on that for sure!

    take care and thanks for reading!

  3. Nice photos. I was stuck in an office all day, so didn’t get a chance to shoot anything.

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