Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Burning Paper Offerings
Hong Kong has a huge population of Buddhists. Throughout the Asian region, Buddhism and Hinduism is a more widely practiced religion then Christianity. It seems that on almost every corner in Hong Kong is some sort of temple where the Buddhists can go to pray, burn offerings or burn incense to take their prayer to Buddha. The temples can be as large as taking up a 1/2 block or as small as something in the back of someones store. They are always built out of red tile or painted red because red is a lucky color. I have seen small temples built into trees and the entire tree trunk is spray painted red.
Christians believe when they die they go to heaven. I don't know where Buddhists believe they go when they die. Reason I say this is I have come to learn that when a Buddhist dies, at their funeral, the relatives burn paper "offerings" of things that they believe their dead relative will need in their afterlife. These paper offerings are anything from McDonalds to clothes to dogs and cats to soccer balls to guns (in the afterlife???) to TV's to money. All of this is made out of paper and is burned at the funeral and also either on the anniversary of when they died or on their birthday. I'm not understanding where Buddhists believe they go when they die, but they obviously go somewhere where they need TV's and food.
There is a street in the Central district in Hong Kong that sell nothing but incense, items needed to pray with and these paper offerings. Our mini bus takes us by this street all the time and I always look to see if there is something new outside. At times I will see a guy making something like a car or a person. One day he was making a chair and for some reason he didn't like how it was turning out so he took out his saw and violently chopped the chair to pieces. So unBuddhist like!
As Troy and I were taking the bus home last week, there was a 10' paper boat on the sidewalk. Troy makes the comment: "Wow, some dead guy is getting a great Christmas present this year!"