Taoist deities
Taoist deities, heibai wuchang Wikimedia Commons

After the Taoist devotees raised concerns over the Halloween costumes featured on Qoo10, the e-commerce platform, the company decided to look into the matter. The company said on Friday, October 25 that respective teams have already been notified to urgently review which were featured on the site.

The devotees raised their voice regarding the costumes' listings as one of the Halloween items and mentioned that this is not only inappropriate, but also disrespectful. It should be mentioned that these costumes are based on two Chinese deities, called heibai wuchang, who are in charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the underworld and worshipped by Taoists. As the name suggests they are dressed in black and white respectively.

In the e-commerce website, there are a few listings of the costumes for adults and children. It showed long-sleeved robes in black or white and another version of the costumes had an additional long red strip that resembles a tongue. As per The Straits Times, Master Lee Zhiwang, president of Taoist Mission (Singapore) said that Halloween costumes on Qoo10 were a serious matter to devotees, and several had complained to the organisation in the past few days. In addition, he said that it should not be taken as a joke and any portrayal of these deities in shows or in any form of media should be done in a strict and careful manner.

As per the reports after contacting Qoo10 regarding the recent incident, the company said that to the best of its knowledge, they had not received any complaints about the costumes. However, a spokesperson said that listings on its site that were illegal or not approved by government agencies would be taken down. But in cases that involve cultural and religious sensitivities, the matter becomes far from straightforward.

"If flagged internally, this is still very much a societal issue that needs to be discussed on a case-by-case basis by internal teams to determine if we need to disallow such products from being sold," he added.

One of the Halloween costumes listed on shopping site Qoo10.
One of the Halloween costumes listed on shopping site Qoo10. Screenshot from QOO10

It should be mentioned that Taoists are polytheistic and worship many deities. They draw their philosophy from the teachings of the sacred text, namely, Tao Te Ching. Most Taoist temples in Singapore belong to the Taoist folk custom and are known as the traditional Chinese temples. These temples usually worship a myriad of deities that may include images of Buddha and Confucius. Worship may be conducted where the sacred altar of the many deities some of which officiate the Heaven, Earth and Water, are enshrined.