This is an overview of Taiwanese superstitions. Read on to learn more.
Throughout my many years of living in Taiwan, I’ve learned a lot about superstitions folks here have. Thus, I wrote this guide to help you if you ever visit or live here.
1. Numerology in Taiwan
Throughout Asia, the number four sounds like the word for death in many languages. Therefore, many people will do whatever they can to avoid doing stuff in multiples of four.
You’ll also want to avoid giving anyone four of an item.
Conversely, many believe eight is the luckiest number because the word for eight in Mandarin, ba (八), sounds similar to the word for well-off, fa (發).
Seven, qī (七), sounds like “even,” qí (齊), in Mandarin, which means that it’s a great number for relationships.
Six also has to do with providing wealth. Therefore, 666 isn’t unlucky in Taiwan and other Eastern Countries.
Many Taiwanese will do what they can to have a phone number with as many sixes, sevens, and eights as possible. Someone in China, there were over 5000 bids for a phone number with almost all eights.
The winner scored this number for a small price tag of 2.25 million yuan ($300000).
Lunar New Year Superstitions
The Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, is a festival that takes place at the beginning of the new year on the solar Chinese and the traditional lunisolar calendars.
There are a lot of traditions, superstitions, and folklore surrounding this holiday throughout Asia. However, here are some of the most notable spring festival superstitions that you’ll likely notice practiced throughout Taiwan.
2. Don’t Dispose of Garbage on the Day of the Spring Festival
Many Taiwanese, along with people in other East Asia countries, believe that the Spring Festival is the start of a new year.
Because of this, people believe that if they dispose of their trash during the day of the festival, they’re throwing out their luck, fortune, and energy for the new year.
3. Stay Up Late During Lunar New Year’s Eve
In Taiwan and other Eastern countries, people will stay up past midnight on the Spring Festival’s Eve.
In ancient times, people stayed up late to watch for the Sui creature that would usually attack Chinese villages. They believe that keeping their homes and streets lit would deter this beast.
Nowadays, people stay awake past midnight to “preserve” time.
4. Avoid Using Sharp Objects the First Few Days
People shouldn’t use any sharp objects for the first few days of the new year on the lunisolar calendar. That’s because these items symbolize severing good luck since they usually cut other things.
This rule doesn’t apply to when you need to use sharp items for cooking.
Ghost Festival Superstitions
Ghost Festival, or the Zhongyuan Festival, is a festival that happens on the seventh month of the Lunar Calendar, which is August.
The 15th day of the Ghost Month is Ghost Day, which is when the deceased come from the lower realm to visit us.
Throughout the Ghost Month, many East Asian countries, including Taiwan, will practice various superstitions. For instance, people will want to avoid making massive life decisions like getting married or buying a new home.
A few of these that you will want to keep in mind include the following.
5. Don’t Hang Clothing Outside
If you don’t want a spirit to enter your home wearing your clothing, avoid hanging your wet clothes outside at midnight.
Specters may also want to wear your clothing to keep themselves warm.
If you want to follow this superstition and don’t want to risk leaving your clothes outside overnight, you may want to consider doing your laundry at a laundromat for a month. These have robust, and somewhat affordable dryers.
6. Avoid Adventuring Alone at Night
Unless you want to increase your chances of a ghost possessing you.
You will also want to avoid taking the last available public transportation for the night. For instance, taking the last Taipei MRT cart.
7. Whistling at Night Attracts Unwanted Visitors
Whistling, along with hanging wind chimes, sound similar to souls ringing.
These sounds will lure ghosts. Therefore, you shouldn’t hang wind chimes or whistle during Ghost Month.
Other Taiwanese Superstitions You Will Find Interesting
Aside from Taiwan superstitions practiced throughout the country’s various holidays, people observe varying superstitious practices no matter the day.
These could involve marrying ghost brides if you’re greedy, snacks disciplining machines, avoiding gifting certain items, and more.
8. Certain Taiwanese Snacks Will Make Electronics Behave
By certain snacks, I’m referring specifically to Kuai Kuai (乖乖), which are Taiwanese puff corn snacks. The term “Kuai Kuai” means “well behaved” or “obedient”.
Throughout Taiwan, you’ll see office workers, police stations, and even factories place these snacks by machines to “bless” their machines. This is Kuai Kuai Culture.
The owner of Kuai Kuai Company Limited established the company back in 1968. Placing these snacks by machines apparently began in 2008 when United Daily News documented certain engineers that placed these snacks inside an ATM.
Thus, if you want a machine to behave, adorn it with a “green” bag of Kuai Kuai. There seems to be no explanation as to why people have to use green bags. But that’s what everyone uses.
9. Picking up Abandoned Red Enveloped Could Lead To Wedlock
Usually, people will give each other money in red (lucky) envelopes throughout the year. However, if you find a red envelope on the ground, it’s likely a trap.
That’s because parents of a deceased adult woman want someone to marry their daughter’s spirit. So they’ll stuff money inside the envelope, place it on the ground, and wait for someone to snatch it.
From there, they’ll leap out of hiding and require the person who picked up the lucky envelope to wed their specter daughter.
While you could refuse the demand, you would have nightmares of a crying woman until you comply.
You’re better off just not picking money off the ground in Taiwan.
10. Refrain From Pointing at the Moon. Or, You Have Have One Less Ear
The moon goddess, Chang’e is a vengeful deity. If you use your index finger to point at the moon—it doesn’t matter the time of day or lunar phase—you’ll suffer from a harsh consequence.
Many Taiwanese believe that she will nick your ear or slice the thing off.
Why is Chang’e so wrathful? That’s because she considers your pointing as disrespectful.
11. Don’t Pat Gamblers’ Backs
First off, here’s background information. The character for back, bei (背), also means good luck.
When people gamble, they obviously need good luck to win.
Thus, if you pat someone on their shoulder or back while they’re gambling, you’re causing them to have bad luck.
12. Avoid Leaving Chopsticks Vertically in a Bowl
Doing so makes it look like your meal has incense sticks sprouting from it.
In eastern countries, people will offer meals to ancestors while also lighting incense.
If you were to represent doing the same, but with your rice and chopsticks, you are attracting unwanted spirits or bad luck to wherever you’re dining.
13 Refrain From Gifting These Common Items
As with numerology in East Asia, particular items share similar sounds as verbs with negative connotations. Here are some examples of items that you should never gift someone in Taiwan:
- Plums or pears: in Mandarin, these words sound like “leave,” which is telling someone that you want them to leave your life
- Clocks or watches: you’re telling the person you’re gifting that you wish to send them off, or they’ll interpret it as that you’re telling them to die
- Shoes: when gifting these, you’re telling someone to walk to heaven or to go away
- Umbrellas: the word for umbrella in Mandarin, Yǔsǎn (雨傘), sounds like “apart”, which is telling someone you want to break up
- Sharp objects: this signifies severing a relationship
If you find yourself accidentally gifting someone any of the above items, or wanting a pair of shoes as a gift like me, there’s a solution to the negative effects.
Give the person, or have them give you, any amount of money to “buy” the “gift”. You, or them, can even give an amount as small as NTD$1 ($0.03).
14. When Writing People’s Names, Don’t Use Red Ink
In East Asian culture, many consider red ink to symbolize blood. Thus, if you write someone’s name in “blood”, then you’re signifying that the person could suffer soon.
Usually, the Taiwanese associate red with prosperity, but not in this situation.
Stick with black or blue ink when signing names.
15. Stay Away From Lü Dongbin Temples if You Value Your Relationship
Lü Dongbin is one of the Eight Immortals of Daoism (Taoism) who helps people gain wisdom.
He has many temples throughout Taiwan. Some of these temples include:
- Pinglin Nanshan Temple, New Taipei
- Xizhi Gongbei Temple, New Taipei
- Nanfangao Nantian Temple, Yilan
- Zhinan Temple, Taipei
If you and your partner are young, avoid visiting any temples that worship him.
He’s a jealous type and will do what he can in an attempt to break up your relationship.
16. Feng Shui
Many Taiwanese will hire Feng Shui, which means wind and water in Mandarin, to properly orientate their rooms and homes to ensure the smoothest flow of energy.
A few Feng Shui rules that you can use when decorating your room include:
- Declutter your entryway: that way, good energy can enter your home
- Avoid storage under your bed: having this storage will prevent energy from flowing around your bed; therefore, affecting your sleeping patterns
- Keep your head away from the window when sleeping: this can lead to unsettling thoughts
Keep in mind that I’m not a Feng Shui specialist nor have done intense research on the subject. I’m going based on basic information that I have.
If you have questions about this science and art, I recommend consulting a specialist.
17. Knock Before Entering a Hotel Room
Before entering a hotel room, knock on the door first, say “sorry for the intrusion,” and step to the side for a second. That way, any spirits residing within the room can exit. Once you enter the room, you’ll want to flush the toilet once.
Does this superstition also apply to Airbnbs? Yep.
People believe that if they don’t announce that they’re entering, the specter would assume there’s a home invader. This could bring bad luck to you during your stay.
18. Playing Basketball Will Make You Taller
Some people believe that playing basketball will make you taller according to many students. However, this seems to be something that parents tell their kids to make them play basketball.
Like telling kids if they’re good all year, Santa will give them gifts.