Ghosts of Contradictions: of Priests and Poledancers

Ghost month passed already, but I’d like to share some of the glimpse of end of ghost month celebration.

Ghost month is the 7th month in Chinese lunar calendar. If westerners have Hallowe’en, then the Chinese have an entire month dedicated for ghost. During ghost month it is believe the gates of hell are open and unleash ghosts to the human world to have fun. By fun meaning the ghosts will do their best to bring misfortunes upon humans, and if they can, bring the humans to the afterlife. To prevent getting pranked by ghosts, humans should pray to their dead relatives, give offerings, and wish the departed all the peace and happiness.

On the first day of the month people usually pray by setting an altar in front of their houses, shops, or even schools. Offerings are put on the altar, usually consisted of fruits, snacks, even soft drinks. Paper money are burned to provide the ghosts material wealth so they can afford nice things in the afterlife. The fifth day is the largest praying day, almost similar to the first day, but grander with much much more offerings as this is the peak of the month. After few weeks of silence, comes the last day of the month.


The last day of the ghost month is more of a celebration than praying time. At night, hotspots like nightmarkets are filled with altars and stages. A religious holiday mixed with local celebrations that provides a stark contrast to each other. Take Zhongxiao Night Market in Taichung City for example, during the last night of the ghost month the street is filled with altars, lining neatly in front of almost every single shop there. People are burning incense and put them in a bronze bowl among abundances of fruits, biscuits, and various other offerings. Large steel drums are scattered on the street corners as places to burn paper monies. Scents of incense, smoke, and food fill the air.

altar on the street

At a corner of the street there is a large canopy. Under the canopy is an altar, with elaborate decorations, and three Taoist priests chanting loudly. They wear robes, bright red and orange, decorated with gold-coloured enamels. There are around 30 people in front of the stage, hands clasp in front of their chests, listening to the chants. One of the priests then throws small tokens to the audience, which they collect excitedly.

the priests’ tent

About 25 to 30 metres from the priests’ tent, there is a stage. This one is borderline tacky with fluorescent lights scattered all over. On the stage there is a pole. An older looking lady with gaudy dress and a microphone stands and talks to the audience, introducing the dancer and announcing the dancer’s next move. The dancer is a scantily clad young woman moving sensually, sometimes up, and sometimes crawling on the stage. At one point she also starts climbing the pole.

the nightmarket surprise

Up until 1987 Taiwan was under martial law. Nobody was allowed on the street between 1am to 5 am. Throwing parties were not allowed, as public gathering was strictly forbidden. Television and radio were the permitted sources of fun. Some nightclubs were allowed to open, but no bizarre outfits or hairstyles were permitted to enter. Inside the clubs people could bust some dance moves, but no touching or hanky panky. If police came to check, the patrons immediately switched the dance into slow waltz or simple cha cha.

On July 1987 President Li Deng Hui lifted the martial law and the citizens were free to do whatever they wanted. During special occasion such as New Year or last day of ghost month when people go out, many entertainments are provided. From singing, dancing, performance art, and Niu Rou Chang (牛肉場). It literally translates as “Beef Market”, which means a stage with flesh baring girls doing sexy dances. In rural areas where there are less police patrols, some of the girls are even taking their clothes off. But since we are in the middle of the city and my parents are also reading this blog, everything must stay PG-13.

…. I guess one more as a bonus is okay.


About landakungu (Dane Anwar)

Landakungu is the blog of Dane Anwar, a native Jakartan. She loves to travel, read comics, novels, and watch films. After spending 5 years living in Taiwan and 4 months in China, she is finally back in Indonesia, which is going to be her new base for more travels and other interestng things.
This entry was posted in Photos, Taiwan. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ghosts of Contradictions: of Priests and Poledancers

  1. Alice says:

    I just had to stop and read with that post title.

  2. astridreza says:

    fotonya gedean cyin lebih seru 😀

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