Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ghost Month via Luodong Night Market

****Click on Photos to Enlarge****

****Not Dead/Only Sleeping****

I'm going to preface this with part of an email I wrote two days ago; it describes the basics of Ghost Month in Taiwan. Afterwards, look for photos from my experiences day 2 of the month.

"Last night was the beginning of Lunar Month July in Taiwan, which means that mid-month (15th) falls on Sunday, August 26.
Ghost Month is unique to Taiwan. It is marked by the opening of the gates of hell, and all "hungry ghosts" (Rough Guide 2007 52) come out to haunt individuals. Taiwanese do not want to talk about the ghosts, because they believe it attracts some of the angrier spirits; that is why we were not told about the parade or start of the holiday yesterday. To appease the spirits and show respect, people pray, burn incense, and burn money in offering daily, though only three days are mandatory for shelling out the cash, the beginning, middle and end of the month (Vickie and Anita).

Not all of the ghosts are bad, or at least, not guaranteed to behave maliciously. According to Kelly, they are not called ghosts, as this attracts the negative ones. They are instead talked about as "hao zhong di" or "hao peng you" (good brother or good friend).
The Ghost Festival in the middle of the month involves the burning of boat effigies and (of course) more money, as well as offering of flowers and fruit, and sacrifices of chicken/duck, pig, and fish (Rough Guide 2007 52). In Keelung, thousands of water lanterns, small floating boats or something of the sort, are released at night over the river with the special intent of calming the spirits of the drowned."

The group participated in a three-team scavenger hunt through the Luodong Night Market this evening, looking for assigned food items that are native to or a specialty of Luodong. Night markets are an important part of Taiwanese culture. They are carnival like in feel, with lots of noise, food vendors, knick-knacks for sale, and games, games, games for kids.
****Julie Playing a Marble Game/Drinking Bubble Tea****

However, they offer quite a bit more in the way of commodities, as a lot of clothing, accessories, and household shopping can be accomplished. There are many families, including grandparents, attending simply out of necessity, looking for practical purchases at the best price.

social development, acting as a neutral ground where groups of teenagers can meet and be asThey offer similar social functions as carnivals or fairs in the United States as well, and are leaned on for these roles more frequently (night markets are nightly, as opposed to the annual county fair). For example, according to one of our Taiwanese advisors, people, particularly teenagers, do not really date too often in Taiwan. Night markets provide a playground for equally interested in each other on a one-on-one level as if they were dating. There are plenty of good things to eat, fun stuff to buy, and friends to talk to, and so it provides an ideal relaxed environment. Many parents bring children to the markets as well, making them quite familiar stomping grounds by the time you are a teenager and looking for anywhere that could possibly allow you to feel confident in front of others.

The Luodong market had a number of fascinating additions in honor of Ghost Month, which included long tables of fresh foods, dead animals, and unopened beverages all arranged delicately and surrounded by clusters of constantly burning incense.

****Fruit/Incense/and a Note written about Next Year (97)****

****At the front of each road/aisle was a slaughtered/flayed pig, complete with writing on the side and a pineapple in the mouth****

****The tables were laden with detailed carvings as well, such as this apparent sage confronting a tiger****

****Some Images were carved out of Standing Watermelons and lit from inside****

****In addition to sacrificed food, people offer incense...****

****...and burn paper money and other paper for appeasement****
We bumped into Ellen, one of the co-teachers, with her 7 year old daughter and 10 year old son. They were on a crowded corner in front of a small grocer. In the middle of the intersection was a stage, blaring music out of mediocre speakers. Songs were sung by nearly-nudes, and everyone was in rapt attention. The majority of onlookers were young or middle-aged males, but couples, children , and young girls were not exempt. Thongs, an open changing room at the side, and music at that volume seem to catch everyone's attention. Both
of Ellen's stood with their ears covered, the youngest girl transfixed by the naked bottom on stage. Sex sells because we're human; smart business to take advantage of instinct. Anywhere under the patriarchy and it's typically female sex being sold by males; clearly they train them young as well. Ellen tells us that the women and song are a feature of Ghost Month; apparently the dead don't mind being reminded they have no bodies for the food or sex they see during the month.

****Too Loud For the Performers on Deck****

****Too Loud for the little one, but she can't look away****

****Laura Happy - Loves Ellen's Kids, Not the Girlies****

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