Thursday, July 27, 2006

Swinging a Dead Cat


Last weekend I was in Tainan taking a walk with my girlfriend when I saw something unusual. As we strolled along I glanced at the local flora along side the road. I saw something hanging from a tree, and at first I thought it was a big dried-up leaf or a piece of bark. As I got closer, however, I saw that, whatever it was, it was attached to the tree by a length of cord or heavy twine. Suddenly it dawned on me: it was a dead cat.

This cat had been dead for a long time. It looked almost like a piece of jerky. I pointed it out to my girlfriend and she said, "Oh, great."

Naturally my first thought was that some sick bastard had caught a cat and hung it up on the tree to kill it, but then I remembered something I'd been told a long time ago. It seems that there is an old tradition in Taiwan which involves hanging a pet cat from a tree after it dies. It isn't commonly practiced these days, but I guess it used to be the normal way to dispose of your deceased feline.

What do you do when your dog dies? Dump it in a river or other body of water.

Here is something I found on the web about the tradition, which apparently is some kind of reaction to the idea that cats are bad:

"In some places in the Taiwan countryside, it has been the tradition that cats are not buried after death to rest in peace, but are hung by the neck in the woods. Oddly enough, this is said to be due to the purring sound cats make when they are feeling content. Shin Dai says that people from her small hometown think purring is the sound of troubled breathing, indicating that cats carry illness. Therefore, after a cat dies they insist on tying a rope around its neck to prevent the germs from getting out."

There is more stuff about cats and also a mention of putting dead dogs in the river at this link.

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