A Danish cyclist made many Taiwanese upset by violating a strict taboo in Taiwan. He was posing for a photo while sitting on the alter of a Taiwanese family’s tomb.
Taiwanese observe many taboos regarding the respect for spirits of ancestors and lost souls, more politely referred to as “Good Brothers” (好兄弟).
The social media storm started on Tuesday 29 October 2019 when a Taiwanese netizen posted an Instagram photo on Baoxiao Commune (爆笑公社) showing a foreign cyclist sitting on a family’s tomb. Later, another netizen identified the man in the photo as 21-year-old Danish cyclist Anthon Charmig.
Over the photo, the netizen added the caption “Oh no, I need to tell this foreigner that it is not a chair. I’m very nervous.”
In the photo, Anthon Charmig is sitting with his legs splayed open and his arms on top of the wall as if he is sitting in a recliner or throne. His feet are placed on either side of the incense burner, which still has sticks of incense in it. His own and a friend’s bicycle are seen on both sides of the front of the tomb.
Charmig was in Taiwan to take part in the Taiwan KOM (King of the Mountains) Challenge, which he finished in impressive fashion in first place. He biked the mountainous 105-kilometer course in 3:24:24.
After completing the race, he toured all over Taiwan and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Taiwan’s mountains and forests.
As his tomb photo went viral on the internet, Charmig was informed of the actual purpose of the altar. Once he realized he had committed a cultural blunder, he immediately deleted it from Instagram.
Many Taiwanese netizens were spooked by the cyclist’s photo:
“He’s done for. At night, he’s going to have scary nightmares.”
“My grandfather told me that if I sat like that my butt would rot.”
“He doesn’t feel a chill in his spine?”
“I have a foreign friend who did this. It blew my mind.”
“Eastern and Western cultures are very different. He really didn’t know.”
The social media storm could, however not overshadow the young and upcoming Danish cyclist’s victory in the Taiwan KOM (King of the Mountains) Challenge.
The 105-kilometer race begins at sea level in Qixingtan scenic area on the Pacific coast, before climbing 87 kilometers through majestic Taroko Gorge to Wuling at 3,275-meters, near Hehuanshan, the highest point accessible by public road in Taiwan.
In 2014, French magazine Le Cycle rated the Taiwan KOM Challenge one of the 10 most challenging hill climb races in the world, likening it to the Haute Route Alps Mountain Challenge in Europe.