Qing Ming: Dead can now laugh all the way to the bank

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia - Hell notes do not suffice anymore. Filial descendants now even burn an entire "bank" for their dearly departed during Qing Ming (Chinese All Souls Day).

Besides paper bank headquarters, other popular offerings this time around are petrol stations that come with car wash service.

"Paper petrol stations have been selling like hot cakes to complement the paper cars and motorcycles," said traditional Chinese prayer paraphernalia shop owner G.H. Teh.

The annual ritual of burning paper gifts signifies the offerings made to the deceased. The belief is that these gifts could be used by loved ones in the afterworld.

This year, Qing Ming falls on April 4 but the festival can be observed up to 10 days before or after the date.

Other popular items are handmade cocktail dresses, mansions with swimming pool and even auspicious dishes like pun choy, a traditional dish which means "treasure pot".

Teh said these "posh" gifts were priced from RM25 to RM200 (S$8.55-68.47). Smaller items are priced from RM1.

The weekends leading up to Qing Ming would see crowds at the cemeteries in Batu Lancang, Batu Gantong, Mount Erskine, Thean Teik Estate, Paya Terubong, Teluk Bahang and Sungai Ara offering food, fruits and flowers.

Among those at the Batu Lancang cemetery on Sunday were three generations of the Goh family, who started their pre-dawn ritual by preparing Nyonya dishes and kuih for their departed loved ones.

Accountant Goh Hock Hoe, 53, said his 77-year-old mother had cooked curry chicken, jiu hu char (cuttle fish salad) and soup.

"The younger members would buy the ingredients besides helping with the weeding and cleaning of the graves before we lay out our grandparents' favourite dishes," he said at the cemetery.