Friday, August 21, 2009

Ghost Month

Ghost month started this week. Ghost month is the month in the Chinese calendar where ghosts get to come out and have summer vacation (or that's how it was explained to me). There was lots of ghost money burning in brass alters all about Taipei this week.

Some people avoid travel and swimming in the ocean or rivers during ghost month. Actually, lots of Chinese people never swim in the ocean because it's dangerous. But the water ghosts are supposedly out in full force now.

One of my Chinese teachers says she sees ghosts - some heavenly, some from hell.

I asked my buxiban kids about ghosts.

"Who thinks ghosts are real, who thinks ghosts are not real?"

All hands shot up for REAL.

"YIDING YOU!" The brainy kid scoffed, which is Chinese for "of course there are," as if I'd asked her if gravity were real.

From there, the class was devoted to personal ghosts stories. We didn't get through much book material, but even the quiet students wanted to tell their ghost stories. And hey, whatever gets them to talk...

One girl told me when her father was young, he saw a ghost rattling dishes in the kitchen. Must've been one of those hungry ghosts. One boy said he and his cousins saw a blue boy ghost in the kitchen when he was little.

A pair of sisters said they always hear footsteps when there parents aren't home. They said they live near a cemetery, and it's the ghosts walking. They didn't say whether they live in a giant complex like most of us here, in which case I would guess the footsteps are one of their bjillion neighbors.

But the sisters also said they have an adult family friend with a keen third eye who doesn't like to spend the night with them because there are too many ghosts. When she sleeps in their home, she can feel the ghosts pressing on her chest.

One student warned me that if I swim in the ocean a water ghost can make itself look like my mom, but when I ask it a question it'll grab my ankle and drown me.

Then someone told me about a ghost possessing a girl. In one day, the girl's hair became very long. And her baby died, and she cradled it even though it was dead. The ghost possessing her was a dog ghost, so it couldn't talk.

By the end of class I had a full-on case of the heebie jeebies. You try two hours in a tiny classroom with uniformed Chinese schoolgirls staring up at you with their dark-brown-almost-black orbs warning you about all the ghosts to watch out for.


1 comment:

Michael Rettig said...

I was woken up by chanting yesterday, turns out every shop in the market had a table of offerings, and there was a tent at the front with a group of monks chanting prayers. They were broadcasting the chants over loudspeakers through the whole market.