​Joss paper morphs to accommodate modernity in Vietnam

The traditional act of burning joss paper has evolved and is currently facing disapproval from a number of Vietnamese people. The custom of burning joss paper is guided by the belief that as the dead and gods are endowed with human qualities, they have the same needs and desires as the living. Purposes of the practice vary, ranging from expressing one’s gratitude and respect to the spirits of relatives and gods, to asking them to facilitate the attainment of good fortune and wealth. Joss paper, usually burned at pagodas and funerals, is extremely popular in the lead up to folk or religious celebrations. Visitors burn joss paper at a famous pagoda in An Giang Province, southwestern Vietnam, during Tet. Photo: Tuoi Tre For instance, many residents in Ho Chi Minh City bought this kind of offering in the event honoring the Vietnamese God of Wealth, which was due on Sunday. Sellers at a shop specializing in joss paper on Le Quang Sung Street in District 6, Ho Chi Minh City, were doing a brisk trade. A shop selling joss paper in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre The wisdom amongst such buyers is that the more joss paper is burnt for the God of Wealth, the greater private affluence they receive in return. But the practice has transformed in noticeable ways. Its location is no longer limited to supposedly holy places like temples, but has included government offices and companies alike. Almost every ceremony marking the beginning of construction… [Read full story]

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