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.
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.
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 Shao–hui came out and replenished the food about every 20 minutes.
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 Shao–hui’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.
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.
Here you see Shao–hui 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.
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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