"You can burn it."

I took the Circulator to Georgetown today. While reading The Express, I ran across this interesting article about lingerie burning.

Apparently paper lingerie burning is on the rise in Malaysia. As part of the Qingming Festival, family members burn a variety of paper items that they think their loved ones might want or need on the other side. That explains a lot.

Last year, Lauren was visiting me and I took her to my favorite store in Chinatown, Da Hsin Trading Company. I find something new every trip. This trip we were intrigued by the colorful envelope of paper, priced at around $1.95.

We asked an older gentleman working in the store what was inside. He looked and gave some vague answer. Then he finally said, “You can burn it.” In fact he said that about every paper product along the bottom back half of the aisle. On another trip to the store, we had the same conversation about some Joss paper with gold squares in the center. He finally said, “Don’t buy it.” I told him that I wanted to paint on them. That idea seemed to be okay with him, but he certainly wasn’t bowled over with enthusiasm.

We got home and opened the package. Needless to say this evening resulted in probably the hardest I had laughed in a very long time.

The package included a paper hat, shoes, an undershirt, matching shirt and pants, plus a metallic watch. Amazing.

I shared the experience with Jackie Jia Lou, who interviewed me for her doctoral dissertation on Chinatown and sociolinguistics. As part of our interview, I drew a map of Chinatown from my perspective. I tried to be thorough, but slipped up on the alignment of my blocks. With each spot on my map, I would point out the significance to me. Of course, I had to share this story with her, because I still didn’t get it. Jackie told me just what the article says. The square paper with gold leaf represents money and gold so that people have so money on the other side. Interesting…

I told her that Christians believe that the streets of heaven are paved with gold, so you don’t really need any money. But that’s what makes life so interesting – everyone is different. If we do get to the other side and you need a little extra cash, be sure to meet up with your Chinese friends around early April for Qingming Festival. They are fixing to clean up. Closest my ancestors get is the fragrant smell of whatever flowers my parents can find at Lowe’s or Home Depot for Easter Sunrise Service.

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  1. lacochran

    I’d never heard of this! Thanks for sharing. Great post.

  2. Caroline Armijo

    Thanks! This is definitely one of the most interesting things I have learned in the last year.

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