Allow the burning of Chinese joss paper boxes at columbarium
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I am using this learned piece contributed by Mr Sheng Wong written to help to win the petition. It gives a compelling argument why paper offerings is so central to the Chinese culture and banning burning paper offerings is a cultural suicide.
Paper offerings is undoubtedly a traditional Chinese culture practised for the past 1700 years (since Jin Dynasty, following the invention of paper during Han dynasty) , and is a religious practice incorporated Confucianism, Taoism and Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. Banning paper offerings is a violation of human rights to freedom of religion and cultural practice. This affect religious harmony in Singapore, which has raised discontent and disaffection amongst Singaporeans whom 70% are ethnic Chinese. With certain faction against and support the ban, this promote further ill-will and hostility.
Paper offerings is quintessentially Chinese which is 70% of Singapore's cultural identity. Paper paraphernalia plays a vital role in Chinese tradition of filial piety.
《禮記‧中庸》：「春秋脩其祖廟，陳其宗器，設其裳衣，薦其時食。」...「踐其位，行其禮，奏其樂，敬其所尊，愛其所親 ; 事死如事生，事亡如事存，孝之至也。」
In The Book of Rites : Doctrine of the Equilibrium and Harmony:
"In spring and autumn, ancestral temples should be repaired and renovated accordingly; vessels and paraphernalia for ancestral veneration should be displayed; robes and attires should be presented; and seasonal food should be offered." ... “Conduct the rituals and perform the music. Revere those whom worth of honour, love those whom worth of affection; serve those departed (deceased ancestors, parents, relatives and loved ones) as they would have been alive, serve the dead as the dead would have been still alive, This is the highest cultivation of filial piety."
The elaborate food offerings and gift offerings (in the form of paper paraphernalia ) are traditional yet historical Chinese way of remembering the deceased, expressing love, affection and piety, and honouring them, through details of living of the ancestors, eg. favourite food, favourite clothing article, favorite colours and livelihood. This is the teaching of Confucius on the cultivation of filial piety -- the core value of Chinese culture and the identity stamp of Chinese race! Thus, banning of paper offerings is an insult to Chinese values.
Banning paper offerings can cause severe damage to local industry, job availability and local economy. Paper offerings have been part of Chinese culture for the past centuries since Jin dynasty (1700 years), thus, has created a lucrative joss paper industry with highly stable demand (second to funeral industry). The making of joss paper paraphernalia requires certain skill sets and knowledge that only locals possessed. For bigger paper object assembly, creativity and engineering are definite requirements. As a result, joss paper enterprise , which is one of the oldest yet longest surviving industries in Singapore, has preserved many jobs and opportunities for the locals.
From market report, Chinese festivities are Singapore's highest consumption/spending period, especially Chinese New Year, Ching Ming and 7th month festival. Paper offering, definitely required for ancestral veneration, plays a major role in these high spending festivities that only benefited local SME and contributed much to local economy (and GST). Banning paper offerings will create low demand and can bring severe impact on local SME and thus, on livelihood of many ordinary Singaporeans.
Preservation of traditional culture is a matter of national pride, especially the tradition belonging to the 70% of Singaporeans. Singapore's neighbouring country, Malaysia may have been going through islamisation. Despite Chinese being a minority, no organisation has ever disrupted the traditional Chinese practice of burning paper offerings. In Malaysia, local fire brigade, police forces, st John ambulance and volunteers helped to ensure health and safety of the public, and the smooth progression of the ceremonies. In fact, the world's biggest 7th month paper effigy of Da Shi Yeh is in Penang, Malaysia. Banning the burning of paper offerings is as ridiculous as banning Islamic headscarf in public and banning traditional Indian orchestra during Thaipusam. Chinese descendants banning a tradition handed down by ancestors itself is an act against filial piety: it is a cultural suicide. The forefathers and ancestors who contributed much to the current peace and prosperity only asked us, the descendants to be remembered this way and it is a disgustingly shameful for unable to continue their wishes.
Below the original petition written by me:
The burning of Chinese joss paper items during Qing Ming Festival and the Chinese Ghost Month is an important part of filial piety and ancestor veneration in traditional Chinese culture.
The joss paper boxes contain the necessary items to ensure our ancestors' continued well-being in the netherworld and obtain their blessings for the descendants.
The neglect or desertion of ancestors will result in hungry ghost emerging and their negative disposition towards the living has serious consequences for the society.
If there are environmental concerns, the columbarium should look into upgrading their joss paper burners to minimise the spread of burning ashes.
Singaporeans of various races must keep ourselves grounded in our traditional culture and values and not lose our identity in this globalised world. If not, we will just be "yellow on the outside, white on the inside".
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