03/26/2021, 14.13
CHINA
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Qingming festival: ban on burning ghost money because of pollution concerns

The move has not gone down well with many people, who accuse the authorities of killing traditional culture. In some cities, fireworks and cremations have also been proscribed. Xi Jinping is manipulating Chinese traditions to boost his regime's control over society.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Some Chinese cities have decided to ban the ritual burning of joss paper or ghost money[*] on Qingming, Tomb-Sweeping Day[†] (4 April), a traditional practice meant to honour ancestors.

Some municipalities, especially in northern China, want to limit the age-old custom because it is considered dangerous for public safety and harmful to the environment.

From 2010 to 2019, over 97 per cent of forest fires were caused by human activities, of which traditional activities were a major proportion, the Ministry of Emergency Management reported.

Recently, the authorities in Harbin (Heilongjiang) banned the manufacturing of joss paper for Qingming, pledging to punish sellers.

The irony is that only a decade ago Chinese authorities made Qingming a national holiday in an attempt to preserve traditions among the new generations.

Not only that, last Monday, Xi Jinping urged the Chinese Communist Party to kook at China's cultural roots to shape the future.

According to some experts, the Chinese president is trying to use Confucian traditions to protect the regime from external pressure.

The ban on Qingming has however sparked grassroots protests, with residents accusing local governments of killing traditional culture.

For the Chinese, burning joss paper at funerals or other ceremonies is a way to communicate with the afterlife.

Authorities have recently targeted other practices deemed polluting, such as fireworks at traditional festivals, cremating the dead instead of burying them, and celebrating lavish weddings and funerals.

According to a number of observers, these bans are a sign of poor administration and will not achieve the desired results.

In 2019, the central government published guidelines in order to change habits and customs in the countryside and build mechanisms to manage social behaviour by 2022-2024.

The quest for social control is a major feature of Xi's regime, trying to strike a balance between promoting traditions and rejecting them to achieve its end.


[*] Joss paper, also known as ghost or spirit money, is a traditional form of Chinese ancestral worship, involving the burning of sheets of paper as offerings.

[†] Also known as Memorial Day or Ancestors' Day.

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