Taiwan is one of the only places in the world where you can witness authentic Chinese traditions. In China, ancient customs have been banned and practices of long ago are still repressed. In Taiwan, classical Chinese culture has not only survived… it is flourishing!
Every year, on September 28, bright costumes, serious rituals and ancient music are on display for Confucius’s Birthday, at the many Confucian temples around Taiwan. The main ceremonies are held in Taipei and Taichung.
A sacrificial pig is on display in front of Zushih Temple, in Sanxia, a town 20km south of Taipei. Every year, families in that region compete to grow the biggest pig. The “Pig Festival” is one of the craziest events you can see in Taiwan. It’s held during Chinese New Year.
Chinese “priests” drink local rice wine, recite scriptures, and burn incense in Sanxia, for the opening of the Pig Festival.
A Taiwanese couple tries to interpret a fortune-telling booklet at Jhenlan Temple (Zhenlan Gong), in Dajia, not too far from Taichung City.
Dragons are all over the place in Taiwan. Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize strength, power and good luck.
A Chinese God is taken for a “walk” around Taichung City during Ghost Month (in August).
Temples are the best places to see traditional Chinese paintings. Baoan Temple, in Taipei, has some of the most colorful illustrations on the island. Some of the oldest temples in Tainan City also have stunning murals.
Firecrackers are lit before, during, and after special occasions like weddings, festivals, prayers, opening of a new business, and even when moving into a new house. They are supposed to scare evil spirits away!
A woman gets her ears cleaned at a temple, in Hualien City, on the east coast of Taiwan. My Chinese friend told me it is auspicious to get your ears cleaned during Chinese New Year. Chinese traditions never stop to surprise me!
Local Chinese musicians entertain a group of temple-goers in a small village on the east coast, not too far from Hualien.
One of the most interesting Chinese traditions… A bride’s family members carry her clothes, pillows, bed sheets and personal items to her new house on the wedding day! Taiwanese families are pretty strict on this: “You want to move in with your boyfriend… get married first!” Most newlyweds live at the husband’s home with his parents.
Chinese oil-paper umbrellas (parasols) are still produced the traditional way in Meinong, a rural town 40km northeast of Kaohsiung.
A traditional Chinese fortune-teller writes Chinese characters on the head of a little boy in Guanziling, in southern Taiwan.
A public parade, in downtown Taichung City.
Traditional Taiwanese funerals are held in giant tents, in the middle of the road. Some ceremonies can last up to 2 weeks! I took this picture just outside Sanyi.
Taiwanese funerals typically involve ear-splitting traditional Chinese music, hired weepers who blare their cries in microphones, endless prayers and loud plays. Funerals in Taiwan are extremely noisy and I believe these ceremonies should be illegal. When my next-door neighbor died, they closed our street for 14 long days and they kept the entire neighborhood awake at night all that time.
Two men play Chinese chess on the sidewalk of a boulevard in Kaohsiung City, in southern Taiwan.
People practice Taichi (Tai chi) early in the morning behind CKS Memorial in Taipei City.
A man undergoes spirit possession and hits himself on the head with an ax as bystanders watch the odd spectacle.
Yanshui Fireworks Festival
People stand in front of a “firework-launcher“, a wooden framework that can hold up to a thousand firework sticks. Yes, the whole thing is pointed at the crowd, not up, and it is totally dangerous! If you’re one of those (like me) who’s interested in that kind of stuff, make sure you wear a full-face helmet, gloves, a thick jacket and a scarf. People have lost their eyes due to firework/firecrackers that got in their helmet.
A “ghost warrior” is hired at a temple in Dajia to practice rituals for someone’s new car to shield it from bad energies, ghosts and accidents. The man got into a trance and danced around the car while holding a burning stack of ghost money. Some ancient Chinese traditions are really intriguing!
A bright Chinese painting decorates the outside of one of the countless temples in Tainan.
People cover their ears as hundreds of firecrackers explode in a cemetery during Tomb Sweeping Day.
A man paints a traditional Chinese lantern in Lugang.