Ghost Month

The Taiwan people refer to the seventh lunar month as "Ghost Month," the first day of which is called the " Opening of the Gates of Hades," since it is believed that the gates of Hell are flung open on this day to allow the ghosts and spirits of the nether world into the world of the living for a month of bacchanal of food and wine. This earthly party comes to an end on the 30th day of the month, called the "Closing of the Gates of Hades," since the portals to the spirit world are shut once again on this day. On the 15th day of Ghost Month, many people stay at home to avoid an unlucky encounter with a ghost out enjoying the Ghost Festival; and special care is taken to avoid walking near riverbanks where a water spirit may easily steal the body of the living.


Opening of the Gates of Hades

According to legend, the gates of Hell are opened at the break of dawn on the first day of the seventh moon, letting the anguished souls in the world darkness return to earth to visit their descendants and enjoy the feasts prepared in their honor. Ghosts without families to return to wander aimlessly across the earth. To avoid being harassed by these outcasts, people offer sacrifices to the homeless ghosts as well as to their ancestors on this day.

When the gates of Hades are closed again, people make a ritual offering of food at the main entrance to their homes, lighting incense and burning paper money for their ancestors to use in the spirit world.


Closing of the Gates of Hades

It is said that on the final day of the seventh lunar month or the first day of the eighth month, the gates of Hades are closed, sealing the spirits back in darkness. At the appointed time of closing, a Taoist priest chants liturgies while holding a "seven-star sword" to let the ghosts know that it is time for them to return to the underworld. When the gates are shut, the priest cups his ears to avoid being deafened by the wail of the spirits lamenting their return to Hades.