Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Fire on the Mountain
SZ Zen readers outside Hong Kong may not be aware that today is an official holiday. April 5 is Ching Ming Festival, or tomb sweeping day, when dutiful families are supposed to tend their ancestors' graves. As space is extremely limited in Hong Kong, there are thousands of tombs stacked on the hillsides and it seems that April 5 is also a day when firefighters are hyper-alert due to the many worshippers who routinely litter and set fire to the brush and trees while leaving food, flaming offerings and burning candles and incense in the course of their tomb cleaning duties.
The paper offerings range from routine items for sending comfort smoking skyward like clothing and jewelry, as well as replica laptop computers, cell phones, electronic massage chairs and - my favorite - paper mistresses and spirit money issued by "The Bank of Hell."
Of course, because I had to work I wasn't fortunate enough to be able honor my ancestors by torching the hillsides. But thanks to the handy "Don't burn and litter the tombs" public service TV ads seemingly broadcast every 2 minutes, I've been quite vigilant lately concerning my ancestor worship activities in general.
There are English language versions of these ads, too, because it's well known that many of the native English speakers here are heedlessly careless and casual when it comes to ancestor worship. Equally helpful are the English language TV ads that also warn us against playing with and/or stuffing live chickens and ducks in our suitcases while on vacation.
It's good to know that Hong Kong cares.
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