After church in Tianjin, Karaoke party, Burning ghost money

This is the scene immediately after the Sunday morning service concludes at Tianjin’s ShānxÄ« Lù church; people have to wait for some personal prayer space at the altar:


ShānxÄ« Lù is a TSPM church (Three-Self Patriotic Movement). These kinds of Chinese churches are also sometimes called registered churches, official churches, or government churches, depending on the bias of the author. Here’s an official version of what that means: China’s Protestant Churches to Adhere to “Three-Self” Principles. This church seats several hundred, and it’s been full each of the couple times I dropped in.

Karaoke Party with the teachers!
dscn8860.JPGWe sang karaoke for FOUR HOURS this afternoon with some of our teachers and classmates. Tons of fun, and our throats are sore now. I’d include a video clip of one of our teachers singing Wannabe by the Spice Girls, but she’d probably kill me. We sang a mix of Chinese and English songs. I once read somewhere that one of the reasons Mainlanders love karaoke so much is because it’s one of the few places where they get to explicitly verbally express romantic feelings. On the way out we passed a room where a middle-aged businessman was totally rocking out to some love ballad.

Burning Day
Riding back from the karaoke place we discovered that it’s another burning night, when the neighbours send ghost money to their dead relatives. This was taken right outside our apartment building:


See “There’s hell to pay” or the related links below for more about burning stuff for dead relatives.

2 thoughts on “After church in Tianjin, Karaoke party, Burning ghost money”

  1. yabaliu says (rough paraphrase):

    On the 1st day of the 10th month in the Lunar Calendar, because the weather is getting colder, people “burn cold clothes” (烧寒衣), meaning paper versions of cold-weather clothes. On that day (tomorrow 08 Oct 29), people will “send cold clothes” (送寒衣) to their dead relatives. Before and afterward people will burn “paper money” (纸钱) as a substitute. Sometimes the cold clothes or paper money is wrapped in an envelope or slip of paper with the ancestor’s name on it.

    There’s a fun story surrounding the “send cold clothes” tradition (yabaliu calls it a “classic marketing story”). The Chinese credit a man named Cài Lún (蔡伦) with inventing paper. Legend has it that his little brother Cài Mò (蔡莫) was jealous, because the paper he made was worse quality than that of his older brother. So in order to get people to buy his poor-quality paper, his wife faked her death and Cài Mò burnt paper resembling money for her ghost. Then she came back and told everyone that in the underworld, that paper is money and she was able to bribe the king of the underworld into letting her come back to this world. So then everyone wanted the “paper money” to send to their dead relatives.

    Aside from sending cold clothes on 10-1 of the lunar calendar, Tianjin has lots of other lunar calender days where you’re supposed to offer paper money to your dead relatives. Other especially important days to do this are:

    • New Years Eve, when you spruce up your ancestors’ graves and burn offerings to them (上坟),
    • Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节), a special holiday just for the purpose of families going to shàng fén (上坟). Tomb Sweeping Day is during the Cold Food Festival (寒食节), three days around Tomb Sweeping Day when you aren’t supposed to eat any cooked food.
    • The “Ghost Festival” (鬼节), the 15th day of the 7th month in the Lunar Calendar
    • And also on the anniversary of a relative’s death

    All this shows how much Chinese people respect their ancestors. Every year has fixed times that remind people to remember their ancestors.

    Even in today’s big cities like Tianjin people retain these kinds of traditional customs and culture. Burning paper offerings on the roads maybe makes air pollution, and fires can be dangerous, but with this kind of tradition, it shouldn’t be prohibited. Instead they ought to think of a way to do it properly, for example designating the extent to which you can burn paper money, or providing each community with a special time, place, and container to burn the paper money.

    [The photo above was taken three days before “send cold clothes,” and they were burning ghost money, not clothes. There are posters and paintings in nearby neighbourhoods criticizing this practice as a “feudal superstition,” but it’s pretty common. In Taipei this was done every 15 days, during the day, out in the open in special containers (photos here). In Tianjin, people do it at night in the dark, and not as often.]

  2. 农历的十月初一 因为天气逐渐寒冷,所以人们“烧寒衣(棉衣,抵御 寒冷的衣服)”,后来人们逐渐用纸钱替代了“寒衣 ”,并在纸钱上加上信封或纸条,写上祖先的名字。
    十月初一烧纸钱还有一个传说是关于“彗娘”的,是 一个经典的营销故事。大意是说慧娘假死,蔡莫烧纸 给她,慧娘说烧的纸在阴间都是钱,所以她就买通了 阎王又活了过来,当然这只是一个传说故事罢了。
    除了农历的十月初一,一般天津还有这样几个日子需 要给祖先烧纸,乃至去“上坟”。
    首先第一个就是除夕,一般是在除夕的一早就要到坟 地去上坟并烧纸钱。
    再有就是每年的农历七月十五,民间俗称“鬼节”“ 七月半”
    除此之外,还有一个日子就是先人的祭日,也就是亲 人去逝的日子。
    从此可以看出,中国人对于祖先的尊敬,每年都有固 定的时间提醒人们缅怀祖先。当然,在现在的这些大 城市里面,天津是传统民俗文化保留相对比较完整的 城市。在路上烧纸可能有污染空气、火灾隐患等等弊 端 。但是作为一种传统,相关管理部门不应该是禁止 ,而是应该想办法疏导。比如指定烧纸的范围,或者 为居民社区在特定时间提供烧纸的容器等。

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