Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ghosts: Who ya gonna believe?

Taiwanese are a superstitious bunch and no more so than in their strong belief in the existence of ghosts. Living here, one is struck by the widespread belief in ghosts across all parts of society. Modern, educated, city-living Taiwanese believe strongly in ghosts. It's a fact. So it might be good to take a look at numbers to make some sort of comparison between American and Taiwanese beliefs with regard to ghosts. What you will find, if accurate, is a little more surprising than you think.

"A recent survey of Taipei college students found that 87 percent were believers, and some say that could be on the low side."

I would have guessed just above 90% so my prediction was dead on about this. The article goes on to say that the belief is stoked "on numerous TV variety and ghost shows" where discussions and stories about ghosts are shared. This is not to mention the tons of Asian ghost movies that broadcast on a multitude of TV channels and that are shown regularly in movie theaters across the island.

Amazingly, even though Taiwan has emerged as a high-tech / scientific powerhouse, the belief in ghosts remain unabated:
"Although sociologists say Taiwan has seen some gradual weakening of traditional beliefs, given better education and wider use of technology, Taiwan’s ghost world has been surprisingly resistant to the erosive influence of globalization and MTV."

At any rate, maybe it's just a case of covering all your bases, just in case, similar to anti-religious people who miraculously get religion on their death beds:
"Many Taiwanese feel it’s best not to anger the ghosts, just in case they do exist."

Let's try to compare to the US situation. It won't be a pretty comparison since we are only comparing Taiwanese students to all Americans but it does offer a little insight.

In a 2007 poll a full 34% of US respondents said they believed in the existence of ghosts. I would have guessed more like 10% so I'm off here. However, this US 34% stands in sharp contrast to the 87% in Taiwan.

Compare this 2007 result though with an online survey done in 2003:
"A 2003 Harris Poll found through surveying 2,201 adults on-line that 51% of people believe in ghosts. In their survey, 58% of women believed in ghosts along with a whopping 65% of younger adults aged 25-29. Shockingly, only 27% of the people polled over age 65 believe in ghosts."

Well you can draw your own conclusions as to what the real numbers are. At any rate, even if you are a non-believer, it bears knowing that you are a strong minority in Taiwan so be mindful of the majority's beliefs in the existence of the afterlife.

I invite IslaFormosa readers to offer their ghost experiences in Taiwan or elsewhere and to share any other more accurate data about the belief in ghosts across countries.
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