Taiwanese call for souls to come home
SHIAO LIN, Taiwan (CNN) -- "I believe a lot of souls are
still in Shiao Lin village," says Yeh Rong Nan.
小林，台灣——「我相信仍有許多靈魂留在小林村」，Yeh Rong Nan說。
Mourners kneel and pray to the dead as they face the
devastated valley of Shiao Lin.
Last weekend the mountain community was erased from the
landscape as Typhoon Morakot swept across Taiwan killing at
least 120 people. Nothing is left of the village except
mud, rocks, debris and two homes, barely standing.
At the edge of a road overlooking the valley where Shiao
Lin used to sit, grieving relatives were Saturday placing
traditional gifts for the souls of the dead to use in the
afterlife. Paper money, fruit, toothbrushes, slippers, toys
A man dressed in a yellow shirt wiped tears from his eyes
as he gently threw paper money into a small fire. He called
out to his dead family members: "Grandma, big brother... I
give you these treasures. Take them with you and use them.
Be careful. Travel safely."
Mourning ceremonies on the seventh day after death are a
part of Taiwanese folk tradition, according to Yeh Rong
Nan, from the nearby town of Jia Shian.
根據從鄰近小林的甲仙鄉來的Yeh Rong Nan，頭七祭典是台灣傳統
The "first seventh" is a day when families call out to the
spirits of the dead to calm them and bring them home.
Taiwanese believe when a person dies, they are unaware of
their death and their soul wanders. It is the
responsibility of the living families to guide the departed
and if the souls don't come home by the seventh day, they
On a road near what was left of Shiao Lin, several families
gathered Saturday to perform this duty, burning incense as
a way to open communication with the dead.
Generations bowed, kneeled, and prayed. "Mother, little
brother, grandchildren... When you walk across the bridge,
hold steady," wailed one woman, referring to a bridge that
souls are believed cross into the afterlife.
Tsai Sung Yu, who grew up in Shiao Lin village but now
lives and works in Taipei, lost his mother, brother,
sister-in-law and their 7-year old daughter in the
長大於小林但現在在台北工作的Tsai Sung Yu，在這次的土石流中
Pointing to the mud plain below where his house used to
stand, he said with tears in his eyes: "It would have been
beneath those rocks there. All you can see is mud and rocks
now. My school, my family, my house.... they're gone."
He revealed his 3-year-old nephew escaped death because he
was visiting an aunt nearby. But, he says, the boy is now
asking for his mother and father.
Tsai says quietly: "We tell him the road home is still cut
off because of the storm. My sister will now adopt him."
In the nearby town of Jia Shian a public memorial was also
being held Saturday, with grieving families placing photos
of each dead relative on tables.
The Lin family, who lost three relatives to Morakot bowed
to their photos, and called out to their souls: "Change
your muddy clothes. We are here. Don't be scared. Come
An elderly woman, Yu Chin Chih, stood in front of a table
of 10 photos, pointing to each one. "That one's gone. He's
gone. This one is also gone and all these grandchildren are
gone," she said.
一位名叫Yu Chin Chih的老婆婆，站在擺有十張遺照的靈桌前，一個
"We went to Shiao Lin village for the first time yesterday
to look for their bodies. But then I realized there's
nothing we could do. We couldn't find them."
It's unlikely the victims will be found anytime soon. The
village is buried under five stories of mud. Looking into
the valley, one mourner called to the souls of his loved
ones. He said, "Be careful. Travel safely."