Thursday, August 26, 2021

Bus #260--a Taiwanese Version of "The Midnight Bus"

An urban legend has been making the rounds in Taiwan for at least a couple of decades, and it deals with a Highway Bus (公路公車) that appears on Yangde Road (仰德道) at midnight. Yangde Road takes one from Taipei up to Yangmingshan (陽明山), the mountain that looms over the north of Taipei,  and it has been plagued by numerous accidents, including fatalities. It is a scenic road but with lots of twists and turns, both likely factors in causing many of the accidents. This bus is said to be totally dark aboard, though the headlights are reported to be on. 

There is more than one version of this tale. Below are two versions: 

Version One

A young woman had gotten off late from work at some place up on Yangmingshan. To her dismay, she discovered she had apparently missed the last scheduled Highway Bus, number 260,  that was heading back to Taipei. This would be at around midnight. 

Yet, to her amazement, at midnight, from out of the darkness a bus number 260 was driving to the bus stop where she stood. Overjoyed at her luck, she entered the bus from the rear. 

It soon became apparent that there was no one else aboard but the driver and this young woman. The front and rear doors closed, and the bus headed down the mountain towards Taipei. 

The trip was largely uneventful, though the driver would stop at each bus stop along the way, allowing the doors to open for a couple of minutes at a time and then closing despite not one other person's climbing aboard. 

Finally, the bus arrived at the young woman's intended bus stop. She headed to the front to pay her fare. 

She was dumbstruck when the agitated driver turned to her and said in a whisper: "Hey, this bus is not for living passengers like you . . . "

Perplexed, she exited the bus.

Days later, she related the incident to a friend who informed her that the bus she had boarded was one reserved solely for the "good brothers" (好兄弟), the euphemism used for the departed, wandering souls of the dead. 

Her friend added that the very much alive bus drivers on that route all probably received "lucky red packs" of money (紅包) to avoid the inherent dangers that can occur with coming into contact with ghosts while driving bus 260.  

Version Two

A young man attended Wenhua University, which is located on Yangmingshan. He got off from work on the campus late one night and hurried to the bus stop to take bus 260 to return to Taipei. He discovered he had just missed the last scheduled bus 260 for the evening, the midnight bus. 

He was wondering if he'd be able to flag down a taxi at this time of night when, out of nowhere, another bus 260 appeared at the stop. The headlights of the bus were on, but the side and door lights were all turned off for some reason. 

The student was in a hurry to get back to Taipei, so he boarded the bus without worrying too much about the switched-off or faulty lights. Once aboard, he noticed there were also no aisle or ceiling lights on, either. The bus was totally dark inside. 

Another strange detail was that the bus would stop at each stop for two minutes even though no passengers had indicated the desire to get off. When passengers did get on, each one bore a totally expressionless face. Not only that but no one seemed to pay for a fare on the way out or to approach the driver to let him know about an intention to disembark. 

All this was somewhat unnerving, but the university student tried to take all this in stride. It was difficult to remain aboard this bus, however. He began to feel more and more uneasy with each minute and couldn't wait to bolt off the bus. 

Finally, he saw that the bus was approaching his destined bus stop. He went to the front to have his riding pass validated and to let the driver know of his intention to get off the bus. 

The bus driver looked at him in shock and asked, "What do you think you're doing aboard this bus?" When the student explained to the driver how he came to be on the bus, the driver replied, "All right, all right,  but make sure you never ever again ride on this bus!"

The student promised not to and left the bus at his bus stop. 

A couple of days later, he had a conversation with a classmate who told him that that particular bus 260 was only for the restless spirits of the dead. 


Yang Haiyan, Xie Yi'an, & Yuan Zongxian. 臺灣都市傳說百科. [Encyclopedia of Taiwanese Urban Legends]. Gaea, 2021; pp. 162-167; 東方有頂天 陽明山的260末班車傳說怪談追追追/你聽過黑色260這班幽靈公車嗎?

For other stories about buses and ghosts, see the posts for 8/6/12, 318/18, and 12/16/18. 

My friends Tina and Jill, both having grown up in Taiwan, told me that they had long heard of this urban legend. Tina mentioned to me that the bus drivers who drive the dark buses with ghostly passengers are themselves alive, not ghosts, and received bonuses, the "lucky red packets" of money, to enable them to ward off the bad luck that invariably occurs when one comes into contact with the dead. These packets of money are also given by families of the dead to those who live next door to where a death occurred as a matter of courtesy. Tina and Jill also related that the administrators of the Highway Bus Bureau maintain that the buses drive with the door and side lights off to indicate that these buses are "out of service." It is possible that this urban legend has its origin when a driver driving an out-of-service bus scheduled for maintenance in Taipei saw a young woman at the bus stop near Wenhua University and felt sorry for her, knowing that she had definitely missed the last bus for the evening and that she would be very unlikely to get a taxi that late at night. So, disobeying instructions from his supervisor, he picked her up and allowed her to ride the strangely dark and totally empty bus back to Taipei. She doubtlessly related her story to friends, who then spread the story, and the story picked up exciting details along the way. 

Motifs: E272, "Road-ghosts"; E581.4, "Ghost rides bus." 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Tale of the Fifth Sister (Hui) Part Two

 So now Selim and Fifth Sister were happily married, and every day for them seemed to be a more joyful day than the one before. 

By and by, First, Second, and Third Sisters each got married; only Fourth Sister, Fifth Sister's twin, remained unwed, largely because she had remained very, very picky and obstinate. However, Fourth Sister was not blind. She observed how Fifth Sister ate well and didn't lack anything and had a wonderful, loving husband for the bargain. She became very regretful that she hadn't agreed to marry Selim. This deep regret and building resentment against Fifth Sister led Fourth Sister to hatch a plan . . . 

On a day when Selim would be busy working in the fields, Fourth Sister went to visit Fifth Sister. Fifth Sister joyfully embraced her jiejie and offered to make some tea. 

"I'm not here for tea, Mei Mei," said Fourth Sister. "I thought it would be fun if I came over here to help you with your laundry!"

"Why, thank you, Jie Jie!" said Fifth Sister. "Let's gather up the clothes and go down to the river!"

And so down to the river they went. 

During a break while washing clothes, Fourth Sister said, "Mei Mei, I wonder which one of us looks a little older. I'm slightly older than you, but I'm also single, while you're a bit younger but already married."

"You might look a bit older, Jie Jie, since your clothes are rather plain and of one color but mine have a flowery pattern," said Fifth Sister. 

"Anyway, I don't believe I look older, but let's do this. We'll fill this bucket with water from the river, exchange clothes, and then see whose reflection looks older." 

"Good idea!" said Fifth Sister. "Let's do that."

They filled the bucket and exchanged clothes.  

As Fifth Sister looked down into the bucket, Fourth Sister came up from behind and pushed her into the flowing river below. 

She then picked up the washed laundry and bucket and headed back to Selim's house.  Selim didn't notice that wearing his wife's clothes was not his wife but instead her twin sister. 

Life went on as before for a while . . . 

Not long after, Selim carried some water back from the same river and told Fourth Sister about a marvelous lotus growing on the banks of the river. He told her how beautiful it was, and so Fourth Sister went to take a look for herself. She came across the lotus at the very spot where she had pushed her sister into the river. 

The lotus, though, was shriveled up and not anything really worth seeing. She wondered why Selim had "deceived" her. 

The next day, Selim returned with more water from the river and told Fourth Sister that the lotus had grown even larger and was more stunning than it had appeared the day before. Well, Fourth Sister could not resist going back to the river to take a look. 

The lotus had shriveled even more than before. Irritated, Fourth Sister pulled the lotus up and took it back home to the outdoor oven and burned it. 

The next morning Selim went to the outdoor oven and discovered a peach pit inside. He tossed it into the yard. Within a few days, a beautiful peach tree had grown in the yard!

Even more miraculous than that, every evening, after Selim and Fourth Sister lay down to sleep, a large, incredibly sweet peach would fly into Selim's mouth, which Selim would then eat. Nothing flew into Fourth Sister's mouth, so she insisted that Selim trade sides with her on the bed, thinking that the peach would fly only to what had been Selim's side of the bed. 

Selim and Fourth Sister traded spaces, and that night Selim still enjoyed the taste of a luscious peach as he lay on the bed. And what, if anything flew into Fourth Sister's mouth? Just an acrid, bitter peach pit! 

So while Selim was away one morning, Fourth Sister chopped the tree down and hacked it to pieces. 

Selim returned and discovered his beloved tree had been chopped down. He gathered up the pieces of wood and deposited them in a corner of the yard. He then stood over the remnants of the tree as tears ran down his face and directly onto the pieces of wood. 

Three days later, the pieces of wood had transformed themselves into a snow lotus! 

Selim was overjoyed but also determined, to Fourth Sister's horror, to guard the snow lotus day and night. 

The snow lotus grew and grew and soon began to take on a definite shape, that of a human body. Finally, it grew into a lovely young woman, Fifth Sister, who was now very much alive. 

Fourth Sister must have witnessed this transformtion from the window of the house, for when Selim, rubbing his eyes in disbelief, turned to look back at the house and call Fourth Sister, he caught a glimpse of her fleeing off into the horizon. 

Fifth Sister recounted how her own sister had pushed her into the river and then brazenly took her place as an impostor. Selim now understood everything. 

In any case, Selim and Fifth Sister were overjoyed to be together again. Later, they went to Hassan's house to inquire about Fourth Sister. She had disappeared, they were told, and, indeed, Fourth Sister was never seen again. 

Selim and Fifth Sister then decided to put the matter with Fourth Sister out of their minds, and they continued to live happily together. 


Li Shujiang, ed. 中国回族民间故事集 [A Collection of Chinese Muslim Folktales]. Ningxia Renmin Chubanshe, 1988. Kindle Paperwhite. 

This story is reminiscent of two other tales, "Da Jie" (see 7/4/07) and "The Bride of Sir Gentleman Snake" (see 11/1/11, 11/22/11, and 12/18/11). 

The snow lotus (saussurea involucrata) grows on the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang and is used in a number of ways as a medicine. A lotus is a symbol of purity, for it springs forth from dirt and mire but remains untainted by its immediate surroundings, or, in other words, "pure."

The peach is a very important and symbolic fruit in China.  The peach itself is a symbol of long life and immortality and is closely associated with the god of longevity. Images of the god of longevity often depict him holding an enormous peach in either hand. Peach blossoms often serve as a metaphor for marriage, as peach trees have blossoms in the spring. 

The Hui people or, as some of them call themselves, the Han Hui (漢回)are an ethnic minority who practice Sunni Islam. Their distant ancestors were Arab soldiers who fought for a Chinese emperor and/or Arab, Turkish, and Iranian merchants who plied the Silk Road and who intermarried with local Chinese women. The Hui are physically indistinguishable from their majority Han Chinese neighbors; the most obvious differences would be their adherence to Muslim dietary rules and their observance of some non-Han Chinese customs and holidays. They may also have surnames that do not occur among Han Chinese people. Their primary language is Mandarin or whatever the regional dialect (e.g., Cantonese, Hokkien) happens to be. In the past, when there was a lack of literacy among the population, the Hui remained largely literate by being able to write Chinese phonetically in Arabic letters. 

Whenever I read a Hui folktale or legend, I always think back to my USC professor Dr. Henry Hung-Yeh Tiee (1921-2009), a Hui gentleman, who taught Mandarin. He was a very kind and patient man who always looked out for those of us like me who didn't have family nearby or in the States. He was also an excellent teacher and one who was devoted to his religion and who was proud of his Chinese identity. I'll always remember his making time to meet me when he returned to Taiwan in 1976 when I was living there. He certainly had many old acquaintances to look up but still reserved a generous amount of time for me. Many of us, myself included, would say of him, "His life was a blessing; his memory is a treasure."

Motifs: D212.3, "Transformation: woman to lotus"; D610, "Repeated transformation"; K22.12, "Treacherous sister"; K1911, "The false bride"; K1911.2.2., "True bride pushed into water by false bride"; K1911.3, "Reinstatement of true bride"; cK832.1.1, "Victim persuaded to look into well or pond."

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Tale of the Fifth Sister (Hui) Part One

 There once was a poor old woodcutter named Hassan, left widowed with five daughters to raise, with the last two daughters being twins. The two little ones were barely a month old when Hassan's wife passed away. And so Hassan had to be both a father and mother to his girls. And this he did--making sure the girls always had food to eat and clean clothes and shoes to wear. 

There was one other thing about Hassan. He certainly didn't have much in the way of possessions, but he did have an ax with an inlaid silver handle that he absolutely treasured, an heirloom that had been passed down to him. 

It was now eighteen years later after the birth of the twins, and all the girls were now of marriageable age . . . except none was yet married. Each one was as lovely as a peony, yet they all remained single. 

One day Hassan was out doing some work and happened to pass by his neighbor Selim's garden. The garden itself grew on the slope of a cliff. He saw some flowers growing on a branch on the edge of the cliff and decided to pick five flowers, one for each of his girls. 

Leaning over to pick the flowers, though, he dropped his beloved ax down the precipice!

Rather than trespass on Selim's property, Hassan went to the door of Selim's house. 

"Brother Selim! Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan. "My ax has fallen down somewhere into your garden!"

"Hold on a minute," replied Selim. "I'm putting my pants on!"

"Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan a few minutes later. "My ax is somewhere in your garden!"

"Hang on!" replied Selim. "I'm putting on my shoes!"

"Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan a few minutes later. "My ax--"

"Just a moment, please!" said Selim. "Let me wash my face!"

"Brother Selim!" shouted Hassan once again. "My--"

"All right, already! I'm here!" said Selim, opening the door. 

Now, this Selim was much younger than Hassan, and while Selim did possess some property, thanks to his deceased parents, he was nowhere near a wealthy man. Thus, he too remained unwed since he was not considered to be an eligible bachelor for any family that wanted to marry their daughter "up." 

Selim located the ax for Hassan; not only that, he also picked an especially beautiful flower and carefully wrapped it in a cloth. 

"I have your ax," said Selim, "but just one moment, please. Now, Big Brother, please allow me to ask for the hand of one of your daughters in marriage! I've lived too long without a wife, and if you would consent, please consider this flower I wish to hand over to you a dowry!"

Hassan knew that Selim was a decent, straightforward sort of fellow, so he took the flower and accepted the proposal.

Selim exclaimed, "Salaam!" and handed over the ax to Hassan. 

"Salaam!" replied Hassan, thus cementing the deal. 

Hassan returned home and asked First Sister if she would consent to marry Selim. She said nothing and only pouted. 

"That means 'no,'" said Hassan, now turning to Second Sister with the same question. All she did was grimace. 

"All right," said Hassan, who next turned to Third Sister. She just frowned. 

"Hmm . . ." said Hassan. "I know what that means." He asked Fourth Sister, who just glared at him. 

"Very well," sighed Hassan. He waited for Fifth Sister, who was out washing the clothes, to come back in. He assumed she would reject the offer because Selim was a poor man. He was worried because he had already given his consent to Selim and certainly didn't want to renege on the deal. 

Fifth Sister came in and saw the sour expressions on everyone's face. 

"Why is everyone so glum?" she asked. And when Hassan explained how he had made an arrangement for one of the sisters to marry Selim and how her four sisters had turned down the deal, Fifth Sister laughed and said, "Dada! I'll marry Selim!"

"My baby daughter's not afraid to live in poverty?" asked Hassan. 

"Oh, Dada!" said Fifth Sister. "All of us here in this area work hard by living off the land. There's no shame in that! No one here has ever starved to death!"

And so Hassan selected an appropriate Jumu'ah (the weekly day of worship, Friday) for the wedding day. Selim and Fifth Daughter were wed. Since they both were very energetic workers, the marriage got off to a great start as the pair eagerly worked together on their land to make better lives for themselves and to ensure they would have a strong, safe, happy marriage. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Legend of the Seven Sisters (Hong Kong)

Note: Please be advised that this legend and its versions are not suitable reading material for children. 

In North Point (北角) on Hong Kong Island, there is a street called the Seven Sisters Street (七姊妹道). The street commemorates seven young women who, as legend has it,  died together many hundreds of years ago near this very area in an act of concerted suicide. 

Version One

It is said that hundreds of years ago in what is now North Point there was a village of some two hundred or so individuals. In this village lived seven young women, all unrelated and of varying ages but bound together by a bond of sisterhood of sticking with each other through thick and thin, no matter what.  

And so they were together every day and became known as "the Seven Sisters." 

Then came the day when the Third Sister's father compelled her to marry a young man through an arranged marriage. It was no use for the Third Sister to refuse or to protest. The night before the wedding ceremony, the Seven Sisters, affirming their sisterhood slogans "We'd rather die than get married" and "We were not born in the same year or month or on the same day, but we choose to die on the same day and month and in the same year," walked hand-in-hand into the water and drowned themselves. 

No traces of their bodies were ever found. However, when the tide later receded, seven stones, arranged in a line from small to large, could be seen in the harbor. Local people came to believe that the Seven Sisters' bodies had been transformed into these stones. 

Version Two

In this version, there is no mention of a pact to die rather than face an arranged marriage. The Seven Sisters did still maintain a bond to live and to die together. Also of importance is the detail that the seven were orphans, which reinforced their dedication to each other. 

One day the area they lived in, the village in today's North Point, was attacked by marauding bandits. The Seven Sisters took up arms to resist the invaders. However, it was a losing fight, and the village was occupied by the bandits. 

The Seven Sisters were now prisoners in what had been their own village. 

The bandit chief made it known that he rather fancied the Seventh Sister for her fighting prowess and would, in three days' time, take her as a trophy bride. 

The Seventh Sister, along with the others in her group, made their decision to escape the village. And so, somehow, they fled from the village, at first eluding the bandits guarding the compound. The Seven Sisters hit the road out of the village that led to the sea, now with the bandits and their enraged chief in hot pursuit. 

They ran and ran with the bandits in relentless pursuit, but soon there was no place left to go since the road ended at the sea. The young women scaled a rock on the edge of the water. "We were not born in the same year or month or on the same day," they defiantly shouted at the thugs chasing them, "but we choose to die on the same day and in the same month and year!" 

With that, they held hands and leaped from the rock into the ocean below, where they drowned. 

Seven days later, their corpses were found floating on the surface of the ocean, still holding each other's hands. By that time, all the bandits were already dead--either by suicide or some other means. 

There is indeed a rock called the Seven Sisters Rock in the harbor. There is also the urban legend that swimming in the area might be treacherous for male swimmers as they might be pulled in by one or all of the Seven Sisters out of anger at men in general or to secure a male companion. 


Shi Zhiming & Fan Qicong. 香港都市傳說全攻略 [A complete run-down on Hong Kong urban legends]; Zhonghua Shuju. 2019. Kindle Paperwhite. 

The legend can also be found online: 七姊妹傳說 - Google Search(20+) 香港都市傳說 Hong Kong Urban Legends - Posts | Facebook【東區街道故事】七姊妹道傳說淒慘 寧死不嫁手牽手齊投水自殺?|香港01|熱爆話題

The second version is reminiscent of other stories dealing with water ghosts, particularly those that lure swimmers to their deaths. My ebook  Taiwan Folktales: Proverbs, Folk Sayings, and Folktales From Taiwan (Books from Taiwan, 2011) deals with a couple of such stories. The second version might also beg some questions. The story, as Shi Zhiming and Fan Qicong point out, makes no mention of the other villagers once the village was occupied by the bandits. What had been the fate of the villagers? Had some at least escaped? Had they all been massacred or enslaved? And why was an announcement of three days needed? Shi and Fan ask why the bandit leader didn't simply seize the Seventh Sister that same day? These are surely rhetorical questions. These missing details are expendable so as to allow the story to unfold. Old legends have an uncanny way of editing themselves through the centuries. 

Motifs: E642, "Reincarnation as stone"; E711.7, "Soul in stone"; Q200, "Deeds punished"' Q210, "Crimes punished"; Q240, "Sexual sins punished"; Q411.7, "Death as punishment for ravisher"; Q558, "Mysterious death as punishment"; T311.2, "Girl commits suicide rather than marry man she does not love"; cT326, "Suicide to save virginity"; T326.1, "Girls drown themselves to save their virginity"; T326.3, "Martyrdom to preserve virginity."