Vietnamese religious group pours water on paper burning ritual

By Xuan Hoa   February 23, 2018 | 04:19 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese religious group pours water on paper burning ritual
Lunar New Year offerings including votive paper hats and shoes burn on the sidewalk of downtown Hanoi. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam

Millions of dollars go up in smoke each year as people try to send their dead relatives gifts for the afterlife.

Vietnamese Buddhists burn millions of dollar worth of votive paper offerings for their dead relatives every year, and one association has decided it's time to put an end to the superstitious practice.

“Burning paper and other superstitious practices that go against Vietnamese traditions and Buddhist culture should be eradicated,” the Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, an association recognized by the government, said in a statement addressing Buddhist leaders and followers across the country.

Thich Duc Thien, general secretary of the organization, said that “Buddhist teachings do not include burning paper.”

“Our ancestors will not receive what we burn for them,” Thien said, as cited by Tuoi Tre (Youth Newspaper).

The instruction was issued last weekend as Vietnam entered the festival season, which involves people burning a lot of votive paper as even the dead are believed to need some sort of financial support for the new year.

Official figures from 2010 showed that every year, Vietnamese people burned 50,000 tons of votive paper in the form of money, houses, cars and iPhones, among others. People in Hanoi spent the most on votive offerings, at around VND400 billion ($17.6 million) a year.

The practice is performed mostly by Buddhist followers, who number around seven million in Vietnam, and is met with criticism every year, although some people still see it as a deep-rooted part of their culture that should not be abolished.

Da Nang banned the burning of votive paper in public in 2015, calling it “littering”. The 3,200-strong Khe Tang Village in Hanoi's Thanh Oai District ended the practice in 2012, dismissing it as a waste of money.

In some cases, votive paper has caused deadly fires.

One fire at a votive paper factory killed three people in the northern province of Bac Ninh in December 2014. Stalls selling the paper at a temple in Lang Son Province also went up in flames on Tuesday, although no one was hurt.

Fire from votive paper booths at a temple in Lang Son Province on February 20, 2018. Photo by The Thao & Van Hoa Newspaper

A fire engulfs stands selling votive paper at a temple in Lang Son Province on February 20, 2018. Photo by The Thao & Van Hoa Newspaper

 
 
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