At the start of 2015, I met a Canadian ex-banker-turned-shamanic healer from Monaco, who was in China to close a deal on his robotic inventions. He introduced himself by coming over to my table in a hotel café and asking me what I was doing here. A straightforward question, yet it hung in the air, reluctant and vague.
On the 15th night of the 7th month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the lower realm is opened so that ghosts and spirits can return to roam the living world, seeking food and entertainment. During this month (鬼月), Taoists and Buddhists must perform rituals to absolve the suffering of the deceased.
They told me there were three phases to go through. The first three months, everything is new and inspiring, a holiday under the guise of a new life. At six months it starts to sink in – this is for the long haul, and you’ll begin to notice things that you don’t like. Minor irritants, as well as bigger and until now unimaginable, differences. After a year, you’ll just stop comparing it to home.