Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ghost money. Rat's ass.



I never really gave a rat's ass about people burning ghost money until a new neighbor moved in a few months ago. The husband and wife run a fortune-telling service which requires them to burn ghost money... every... single... day. Not just one burner either; they have three and boy do they load 'em up. They have a folding table outside their store front piled high with wads of ghost money for the day's offerings. How fortunate for our neighborhood is that?

Fili wrote a post about ghost money burning back in March. He concludes that Taiwanese "will figure out their own way of balancing traditions with environmental issues ." Or, more likely, they won't. Fili may call his way of thinking optimism: I call it wishful thinking.

And isn't it interesting how burning ghost money is always framed as a Tradition vs. Environment debate? No, it's not interesting, not even to the tiniest degree . This tradition is getting up my nose, into my lungs, and very probably trying its damndest to give me cancer. I also have a wife and two sons whose noses, lungs and general wellbeing I happen to consider more important than a "cultural activity" as well.

Maybe Taiwanese really will figure out a way, but what I want to know is when? I'm holding my breath here! In fact, we should all be holding our collective breath. The correlation between high particulate air pollution and mortality and respiratory diseases has been well established. So please stop giving me this ludicrous false duality of Tradition vs. Environment. Just stop burning that shit already!

7 comments:

Boyd R. Jones said...

Time to get out of Taiwan? Seems we foreigners are powerless to make any meaningful changes in this crowded island.

Naruwan said...

It's something I've seriously considered on many occasions. Taiwan's pollution is really that bad, more than most people realize. I've spent most of my life as an adult living in Taiwan, and despite everything I still like living here, but the pollution does make me wonder if I'm doing the right thing, not just for me but for my wife and kids.

teaching Englsh in Tainan, Taiwan said...

A face book group for people who don't like ghhost money:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=10493932460

Anonymous said...

You've lived in Taiwan for 15 years yet you sound just like another ignorant foreigner bitching about something you don't fully understand. Of course it has to do with tradition! Yes, it may be a silly tradition to you but try telling that to all the older Taiwanese people who were born and bred here for decades and lived their whole lives with this tradition. Do you really think even a small portion of those people know about the negative effects of burning ghost money? Of course not! And who's responsibility is it to educate them? Instead of just complaining about it on a blog you should just do something about it... or leave and go back to wherever you came from.

panamajack said...

Anon is being an total ass about it but he has a point; there are a bit of a point Lots of Taiwanese who agree with you and are working on all sorts of enviromental initiatives like restricting the burning of ghost money.

Personally speaking though, I wouldn't consider raising a family in Taiwan - ghost money or not- I've noticed the impact just three years of living on and off the island has had on my health.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Isn't it illegal to burn ghost money, or is that some kind of urban myth? Or, maybe that's just something to cover Taipei, like driving on the sidewalk is. I thought you could get a NT$100,000 fine. I'm probably wrong on that. I could've read people "should" get an NT$100,000 fine long ago...

Anon, I think this guy is doing something about it just by posting here. He's making people aware of the issue and creating discussion. If you've got a problem with that, why don't you go back to "wherever you came from", even if that includes China? Scram.

Anonymous said...

Hm, interesting to see the discussion on this subject, always wondering how this practice will affect others, and yes, burning ghost money does has it's own set of regulations to follow and was in place decades ago, it is ,however though, never and real hard to enforce on the local communities, traditions or not, it's a big hat to be put on such subject, when a religion blended in with all the stories it provides plus all the culture background and daily practice, ( in your case , daily routine),it's becoming a subject no government officials dare to touch, especially in a democratic society.


If it bothers you as you described, which I believe it does, you can always have your wife bring the kids to your local 里長 and file an unofficial complain and try to persuade your new neighbor purchasing and using 環保金爐, those newly design products does provide a better and cleaner burn for the ghost money, way less hazardous and less fume and smoke for you to breath in, and for them fortune tellers as well. I believe you are not the only one that suffers from this act alone, to live nearby one of these places are by all means no fun at all, when I was still a kid growing up in Tainan, my parents always told me never-ever buy houses and properties near one of these places, not only the general environmental pollutions per se, the major problem often being such places' abilities on degrading the nearby communities and resulting in bad investment returns, and the more I look at this issue, the more I am positive it's one of the few things my parents taught me right. So bring it up, provide the solutions for them to follow, and try to act nice and understanding while you are at it, because, trust me, it's going to be a hard nut to crack, just consider this, TW was being occupied by several foreign forces in the past, every single one of them tried to stop this practice and failed, including the brutal Japanese, and later on, even a brief period for the local KMT government, so....small practice, big subject, meanwhile, invest in a few good air purifiers and force them on burning the ghost money only during certain time frame of the day, so you can close windows in advance, better yet, wait for them to move out, or maybe you should go for new house hunting. Good luck.