Rolls Royces and iPads: In ef­figy, Viet­nam burns them all

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

WITH an av­er­age an­nual in­come of around US$2000 most Vietnamese would not con­sider them­selves es­pe­cially wealthy. But in the af­ter­life you can be a bil­lion­aire thanks to pa­per of­fer­ings made by your scions.

In a Hanoi work­shop ar­ti­sans are putting the fin­ish­ing touches to a nearly life-size card­board model of a Rolls Royce. Close by is a gi­ant pa­per aero­plane – a blue Boe­ing 787 Dream­liner com­plete with crew mem­bers.

But these are not chil­dren toys. They are hang ma, pa­per of­fer­ings rep­re­sent­ing real life items that are burned in the be­lief they will travel as smoke to the af­ter­life to be used by the dead.

“We be­lieve our dead rel­a­tives will re­ceive these as­sets as soon as we burn them,” Nguyen Nam, one of the team mem­bers fin­ish­ing the Rolls Royce, told AFP.

“It takes me about two weeks to fin­ish a car like this, with the help of two more men.”

The burn­ing of vo­tive of­fer­ings for use in the af­ter­life is a com­mon prac­tice in China and nearby coun­tries that have Chi­nese an­ces­try or com­mu­ni­ties such as Viet­nam and Cam­bo­dia.

In Viet­nam, hang ma burn­ings reach their peak dur­ing July’s mid­lu­nar fes­ti­val, which ended yes­ter­day.

There was a time when such of­fer­ings largely re­volved around burn­ing pa­per clothes, fake money and food items.

Now the hang ma are just as likely to be iPads, lap­tops, lux­ury cars and vil­las with swim­ming pools.

Dang Xuan Nhi, a 70-year-old maker of vo­tive of­fer­ings, says it is vi­tal to pro­vide an­ces­tors with the kind of lux­u­ries and ev­ery­day items their off­spring ei­ther en­joy or hope to have in the fu­ture.

“Like this life, like the af­ter­life,” he ex­plained. “What we have here on earth, they have the same there.”

It of­ten take days for ar­ti­sans to hand-make the pa­per mod­els, which cost any­where from a few dol­lars to a few hun­dred.

But it takes only a few min­utes for them to burn.

Ac­cord­ing to unofficial re­ports, up to 50,000 tonnes of pa­per money and gen­uine be­long­ings worth mil­lions of dol­lars are burned ev­ery year in Viet­nam.

Viet­nam’s com­mu­nist au­thor­i­ties have tried to en­cour­age peo­ple to spend less on the of­fer­ings.

But their ap­peals ap­pear to fall on deaf ears as lo­cals strongly be­lieve that look­ing af­ter your an­ces­tors will bring real re­wards back on earth.

“We burn this for our dead rel­a­tives so that they feel happy. And if they are happy, they will bless us with good health, hap­pi­ness and luck,” said Do Mai Hoa, a vil­lager on the out­skirts of Hanoi. –

Pho­tos: AFP

A man in Hanoi takes a break from work­ing on pa­per mod­els to be burned as an of­fer­ing to those who have died.

Pa­per dolls, cars, bikes and horses: You name it, they burn it.

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