Close to sundown each day, the Taiwanese advise that travellers refrain from straying too close to Hala trees. These trees are haunted by the spirit of a tragic maiden. The Taiwanese call her Líntóujiĕ—the Lady of the Hala Trees.
The tale of the lady who haunts Hala trees is a well-known ghost story among the Taiwanese. It goes something like this:
There once lived a beautiful young maiden in a sleepy, southern Taiwanese village.
One day, a battalion of soldiers from the continent began arriving in the region. These were warriors charged with defending the vast Chinese Empire’s frontiers and they have been stationed here on this small Pacific island.
Among the Chinese troopers was a young, handsome officer. Each morning, the Chinese officer passed through the village on his way to battalion headquarters. There, he met the beautiful Taiwanese maiden each day. In time, the two grew close and eventually fell in love.
The young maiden, wishing to marry the officer, consulted her elder sister. The sister, however, was anything but supportive.
“Soldiers kill for a living. They’re murderers,” her sister warned her. “They’re unpopular in these parts. And besides, the young man may soon be reassigned to a different post. You will never be able to settle down in one place should you marry a soldier from the continent.”
Deeply upset at her sister’s adamant disapproval, the foolish maiden decided to elope with the young man. The pair escaped to a different village—close enough to the battalion headquarters where the officer worked, but far enough from the maiden’s native village that they would have peace.
The maiden’s family, for their part, duly disowned their disobedient daughter.
In time, the couple had a son who the maiden doted on dearly. All seemed right with the world. The young family was happy.
One day, a festival was to be held at the village temple. Temple festivals are the highlight of rural Taiwanese village life. After a long day’s work, the officer returned home, apparently intending on taking his young family with him to share in the festivities.
The maiden was terribly excited. She sat in front of her dressing table, laid out her finest garments and hummed a merry tune to herself as she prepared.
But as the clock ticked and the husband waited, the maiden still was not ready. The officer, standing by the front door, hollered into the house to see if his wife was done.
“Not yet,” came the reply.
Growing ever more impatient, the officer suggested to his wife that he should take their son to the temple first and that she could meet them there.
Not wanting to keep her husband and son waiting, the maiden consented to the idea.
When the maiden finally arrived at the temple festival, her husband and son were nowhere to be found. She searched and search and still, she could not find them.
“Perhaps they got tired of waiting for me and went home first,” she thought to herself. “We must have just passed one another without realizing.”
With that thought, she returned home. But there she saw that the lock on the front door was secure, just as she had left it. Increasingly concerned, she went to the battalion headquarters where her husband worked. There, she was greeted with unpleasant news.
“He’s been reassigned,” they told her. “Yesterday was his last day. He ought to be on the ship setting sail for China by now.”
The maiden was incredulous. She’d been abandoned. Her dearest husband had taken their son with him and left her. All was not right with the world.
Heartbroken and without a home or a family to return to, the maiden was lost. If only she had heeded her sister’s advice, she thought to herself. What was she to do now?
The maiden wandered near a grove of Hala trees. There, succumbing to her grief, she hanged herself.
Ever since that time, numerous sightings and tales of the Lady of the Hala Tree have been reported. The young maiden’s grief-stricken spirit still haunts these groves and the Taiwanese still advise one another to refrain from straying too close to these cursed woods.