Image by Heictor Hsiao from Pixabay

Welcome to the strange, the mysterious, spiritual, and occult world of Taiwan. While by no means authoritative or comprehensive, this post hopes to offer small insights into the Taiwan’s relationship with the supernatural as well as a few of the Island’s more remarkable ghost traditions. Welcome to “Ghost Island.”


Nowadays, you will sometimes hear Taiwan referred to as “Ghost Island.” It is a somewhat popular or frequently used term which denotes Taiwanese estrangement from ancestral mainland China and more pointedly refers to the geopolitical twilight zone the Island finds itself in as its much larger neighbor increasingly seeks to isolate it from other allies on the world stage. Dig a little deeper into Taiwanese culture, however, and the term begins to resonate in some very strange ways. 

Zhiguai xiaoshuo (志怪小說) is the term used to describe the classical Chinese literary genre known as “tales of the miraculous” or “tales of the strange anomalies.” It has a history in China extending back well over a thousand years. A few scholars believe that as a result of the turmoil of the last century within China, the modern-day locus of this tradition now resides in Taiwan. 


Make no mistake dear reader, we are of sound rational mind. We set our compasses on empirical truths and scientifically proven facts. This is not your woo woo reddit forum. Nonetheless, after researching the content for this article we may have found ourselves knocking on wood just a little bit more; just to be safe. 

Ghost Culture in Taiwan 1
Photo Credit: Taiwan Heart of Asia

Ghost Month

For the foreigners new to Taiwan, or for those who have only been here in other times of year, the first thing you need to know is that Taiwan has an entire month dedicated to ghosts or “good brothers and sisters” as they are euphemistically called as a way of not attracting their attention.

Ghost Month or Zhong Yuan Jie (中元節) as it is called takes place during the 7th month in the Chinese lunar year which normally falls between August and September in the Gregorian calendar. In 2024 it will take place between August 4thand September 2nd, so mark your schedule accordingly. 

During this month it is believed that the ghosts are set free from hell/the realm of the dead to once again roam the earth and seek food and diversion. The living, in turn, have the responsibility of performing a number of religious practices connected to ancestral worship as well as to help ward off malicious influences and to help these wandering and sometimes hungry souls find peace. The fifteenth day of the month is specifically known as “Ghost Day” and the date when many of the most important religious ceremonies will take place. One of the more interesting ones happens in Keelung where the Lao Da Gong Temple (老大公廟) has a “Ghost Door” through which the Gates of Hell are opened and then later closed through a series of rituals. 

Ghost Month is a fairly serious affair for many parts of Taiwan. You will see massive amounts of paper money or joss money burned, food left outside of houses or businesses for ghosts, lanterns at night to help the ghosts find their way, many religious activities at or around temples, and more. If you are near the ocean or a body of water, you may see water lanterns or house lanterns

There are a whole set of rituals as well as superstitions which come with Ghost Month and some have even bled into everyday life in Taiwan throughout the rest of the year. Keep in mind, in the traditional Taiwanese cannon, these ghosts are not always the happy Casper-like spirits. Some of the unhappy ones can get up to some very serious mischief. 

Generally, or historically, you will see no weddings or large birthday parties during ghost month. It is not considered a good time to move to a new home or start a new business. Additionally, there has long been a fear about swimming being an activity to avoid while ghosts are on the loose.  

Ghost Culture in Taiwan 2
Photo Credit: Asian Inspirations

Superstitions of which to be Aware

  • Other superstitions connected to ghosts and ghost month include: 
  • Knocking and standing aside before entering your hotel room for the first time to give the good brothers and sisters a chance to exit.
  • Not pointing at the moon for fear of a severed finger or slice behind the ear.
  • Not leaving laundry outside or outside after dark during ghost month for fear that ghosts might borrow some clothes for a stroll. 
  • Don’t let your hair get disheveled during ghost month for fear that the ghosts might mistake you for one of their own. 
  • Don’t lean against a wall during ghost month as they are cooler and have more yin energy in the hotter months thereby allowing ghosts to move along them more easily.
  • Don’t take the last bus or train during ghost month. You can’t be certain just who else is riding on it. 
  • Don’t sing, whistle, or take photos at night. It’s like sending out a flare saying “here I am ghosts!”
  • Do not steal offerings! The ghosts have been waiting a year for their food it is not advisable to take from their plates. 
  • As a general rule, as a foreigner be careful about talking about ghosts in Taiwan. Avoid striking up a conversation about them in temples and in other places read the room and the context, and know it might be uncomfortable or even taboo for some folks. Remember the belief or idea that “to say it out loud is to invite it into your life.” 
  • There are two categories of ghosts within Taiwan and Chinese mythology. Gu Hun Ye Gui (孤魂野鬼) refer to ancestors, hungry ghosts, and wandering spirits. Yao Guai (妖怪) are the monsters or supernatural beings that also come poking around our lives. They are most definitely not human. 


The Ghosts were out in Keelung, Taiwan Scene,

Dark Descents and Monstrous Bodies: Writing Under the Influence of East-Asian Horror, Judy Lin

Haunted places in Taiwan:


Girl with Ghost Eyes, M. H. Boroson

Ghost Town, Kevin Chen

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond, Chia-rong Wu

The Whisper, Chang Yu-Ko


Theory of the Strange Towards the Establishment of Zhiguai as a Genre, Ming Ming Liu

Ghost Culture in Taiwan 3
Photo Credit: Kendra Tombolato


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