Curious About the Ghost Month👻? Discover the Spooky Traditions of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Taiwan!

As Chinese Singaporeans, we often know about Chinese traditions superficially. But one festival that has always been fascinating is the Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節/中元节, Zhōng yuán jié), celebrated during the Ghost Month (鬼月/鬼月, guǐ yuè)

What exactly are the traditions during this eerie period of time? 

Here’s what our Taiwanese manager told us about the Ghost Month Traditions in Taiwan.


What is the Ghost Month?

The Ghost Month is the seventh month of the lunar calendar, which runs from Sunday 4 August to Wednesday 2 September this year (2024).  It is believed that the gates of hell open(鬼門開/鬼门开,Guǐ mén kāi), allowing hungry ghosts (饿鬼/餓鬼, è guǐ) to be fed by us living human. 

Throughout the month, offerings such as food, incense, and joss paper (金纸/金紙, jīn zhǐ for gods) and( 银纸/銀紙, yín zhǐ for spirits) are prepared to appease these ghosts and prevent them from causing mischief. 

马来西亚拜神金纸种类,烧冥纸和纸钱的正确方式| 各种节日应该烧什么金纸的表- JinPaper

It is kind of like “trick or treat” during Halloween!



Key Traditions and Taboos

During the Ghost Month, many Taiwanese follow various traditions and taboos to ensure they stay on good terms with the spirits. Here are some notable practices:

  1. Offerings and Altars: People set up altars outside their homes and businesses with offerings like rice wine, fruits, meats, and snacks. Important note – it’s important to keep these offerings outside to avoid inviting spirits indoors.

    When the food offerings go bad or rot after a few days, it is explained as the life force of the food being absorbed by the ghosts.




  2. Respecting the Good Brothers: Instead of calling them “ghosts” (鬼, guǐ), it’s more respectful to refer to “them” as Good Brothers (好兄弟/好兄弟, hǎo xiōng dì)


  3. Avoiding Certain Activities: These are some activities that are taboo during the Ghost Month. NO swimming in dangerous waters; NO late-night travel; NO taking the last bus; NO whistling at night. These activities are believed to attract the Good Brothers.


  4. Superstitions and Precautions: NO hanging clothes outside at night; NO opening umbrellas indoors; NO  placing  your indoor sandals towards your bedroom, as these can attract YIN energy (阴气/陰氣, yīn qì).

鬼月晚上不能曬衣?他一問釣出過來人…曝「這點」更可怕| 生活| 三立新聞網SETN.COM鬼月晚上不能晒衣?


A Traveler’s Perspective

For those who have never visited Taiwan during the Ghost Month, experiencing the traditions and ceremonies can feel rather strange. 

One foreigner living in Taiwan recounted his visit to Keelung’s Zhupu Altar(主普壇/主普坛,Zhǔ pǔ tán), where he experienced the vibrant festivities, food offerings, firecrackers, fireworks, traditional music, and cultural rituals.

If you’re ever in Taiwan during Ghost Month, consider visiting one of the major temples, such as Zhupu Altar, or participating in a local ceremony to witness the festival’s profound cultural significance. It’s a festival that brings humans together, not just the Good Brothers! 


Let’s stay curious, respectful, and maybe a little spooked!




Vocabulary Review


  • Ghost (鬼, guǐ )
  • Hungry(饿/餓, è)
  • Hungry ghosts (饿鬼/餓鬼, è guǐ)
  • The Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節/中元节, Zhōng yuán jié)
  • Ghost Month (鬼月/鬼月, guǐ yuè)
  • The gates of hell open(鬼門開/鬼门开,Guǐ mén kāi)
  • Joss paper (金纸/金紙, jīn zhǐ for gods and 银纸/銀紙, yín zhǐ for spirits)
  • Good Brothers (好兄弟/好兄弟, hǎo xiōng dì)
  • Yin energy (阴气/陰氣, yīn qì)




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