Tradition VS New Age
A motivation which sets us on this journey to find out more on joss paper and paraphernalia is the controversial debate on whether joss paper burning should be banned in Singapore. As Singapore progresses as a first world nation and our population is becoming more literate, the new age generation no longer follows tradition and knows little about it. Many traditions are now lost as we are more westernised and modernised, dismissing traditions as superstition and unnecessary.
Especially in recent years, Singapore has been plagued by the haze and many measures have been taken to reduce air pollution so as to improve the prolonged haze situation. The National Environmental Agency reportedly receives 500 to 600 emails and letters annually that complain about joss paper burning. Anti-joss paper burning Singaporeans have accused those who are still practising the joss paper burning tradition as selfish, insensitive and superstitious to pollute the environment further. This sets us thinking, is burning of joss paper really unnecessary or have we lost tolerance for cultural traditions?
Even though the three of us are Chinese, we never really knew much about our Chinese traditions and we never have enough guts to question our elders what all these joss paper and paper paraphernalia are used for. Bee Kuan: “This topic was considered as “taboo” and my parents often told me sternly that I should not question in case I offend the Deities or the spirits. It sounds ridiculous when I tell people that I grew up in a traditional Chinese family but knew very little about my own tradition and culture.”
Curious to find out what joss paper and paper paraphernalia are, its significance of burning and to dig further into Chinese traditions, the three of us decided to make a trip down to a joss paper agency. Other than joss paper making, what intrigues us is an invaluable craft which the 75-years-old paper master possesses but has no successors. He is still eager to pass on this craft in hope to keep the trade alive… What exactly is that?
Watch our video to find out more!
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Ang Bee Kuan
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