Monday, 7 April 2008

Towering Inferno

It must be one of those times of the year when Chinese burn things to appease, acknowledge and venerate their dead relatives. The big Ghost festival is held in the seventh lunar month of the Chinese year (circa August) and so is still months away. I think this one must be QingMing held 104 days after the winter solstice, around 5th April. You can tell because the intensity of smoke pollution rises dramatically.

People are lighting fires from 6am onwards, likely before going to work, whereas on a typical day it would be just the usual suspects between 8am and 10am. These recidivist fire starters return to the same spot every time with a consistent MO:

  1. Take good handful of papers, hell money and optionally 10 - 15 joss sticks
  2. Find a suitable spot near your house. Don't use the incinerators provided but instead consider the concrete apron around the HDB block. On top of a metal drain grating is popular (the ash doesn't fall through much but it feels like it might). A grass verge will do and after a couple of days there won't be any grass to kill, so no worries. If it's raining, move under the void deck and find a quiet corner up against a concrete wall; don't worry about the paint
  3. Separate papers by folding each one over to create a loose pile
  4. Light pile in several places
  5. Wait a minute until it gets going
  6. (optional: throw joss sticks on fire)
  7. Hold hands together and concentrate briefly on your filial duty. The exact form is unimportant as this is not a religious activity, rather a Confucian-inspired homage
  8. Pickup & carefully dispose of any packaging from the papers & joss sticks
  9. Bugger off home.