Author: Mark Magnier
I saw ‘Ghostbusters,’ but that’s not how it’s done,” says the author of several ghost books and the host of radio and television paranormal programs. “You can’t get rid of ghosts that easily, especially with those funny, weird machines. That’s just comedy.”
In Taiwan, ghosts are rarely a laughing matter. On TV, in conversation, at temples and in the recesses of the unconscious, they maintain a grip on island society. Taiwanese are ghost-crazy or, rather, crazy to avoid them. A recent survey of Taipei college students found that 87 percent were believers, and some say that could be on the low side
“I’d say the other 13 percent would probably hedge their bets if you questioned them closer,” says Marc Moskowitz, an anthropologist at Lake Forest College in Illinois who has studied Taiwan’s spirit beliefs. “Many Taiwanese feel it’s best not to anger the ghosts, just in case they do exist.”
Ghosts have been a part of Chinese culture from at least the Shang Dynasty, with 3,500-year-old oracle bones from the period depicting a big-headed, bent-kneed phantom.
But China has seen much of its other-world belief system erode under the Communist Party’s assault on religion and superstition. That has left Taiwan, which split from China in 1949 after civil war, a repository of this tradition, one that draws scholars to study Chinese ghost practices in pure form.
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