Award Banner
Award Banner

E-Junkies: 'It's so Chinese, that you need cash in heaven', says Ben Wang from American Born Chinese on his family's traditions and superstitions

We Asians can be a superstitious bunch sometimes.

AsiaOne spoke to actors Ben Wang and Sydney Taylor from the Disney+ series American Born Chinese recently, and asked Ben if his family had any that stood out to him growing up.

"We had all the standard ones," the 23-year-old said. "You know, don't stick your chopsticks in the rice straight up, and we burnt paper [offerings] every Tomb-Sweeping Day."

He found the notion of burning paper money for your deceased relatives "so Chinese", that "in heaven you need cash".

"So here's a giant stack of thousand [dollar bills]," he joked.

Ben's family even bought kits that came with paper money and other offerings to send up to their ancestors, which he noted was a recent advent "in the last 20 years". The kits came with things such as "a little paper iPhone" or "a little paper suit, with a little paper bowtie".

"It's like, 'Here, grandpa. I hope you like this iPhone 2'," he laughed.

Ben continued that it was always very fun for him to burn paper offerings.

"They always let me light it up, and I was kind of a little pyromaniac," he said.

Which East Asian deity would they like to meet?

American Born Chinese follows Jin Wang (played by Ben) who is a Chinese-American high school student struggling to fit in with his peers. He gets tasked to show Taiwanese exchange student Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu) around but unexpectedly gets thrown into a battle between mythical Chinese gods.

Sydney, 23, plays Amelia, Ben's love interest (at least in the graphic novel the show is based on) and schoolmate.

While the show features the biggest names among East Asians in Hollywood, it also features some actors from closer to home — like Yeo Yann Yann and Chin Han.


When asked which East Asian deity they would like to meet in real life, Ben was glad he got to meet two of his childhood favourites in the show: Guanyin (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Sun Wukong (played by Daniel Wu).

"And Pigsy, Zhu Bajie from Journey to the West, was played really incredibly by Brian Le in our show, with really good makeup that I won't spoil," he added.

Sydney chimed in: "That he could walk around was really… that was something."

Another deity Ben would like to meet is Guan Yu, the God of War, though it might be "pretty scary".

"He's got a big old blade and a giant beard," he said. "He's like a scary Santa Claus, and instead of presents, he delivers martial prowess."

For the full interview including where Ben and Sydney would fit if the cast of American Born Chinese were a real family, watch our latest episode of E-Junkies.

American Born Chinese streams on Disney+.


ALSO READ: 'Durian fruit sounds dangerous,' says Transformers: Rise of the Beasts star Anthony Ramos ahead of 1st visit to Singapore

No part of this article can be reproduced without permission from AsiaOne.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.