The Paper Builders


View in HD [here].

When Lizzy first told me that we should check out this joss paper mak­ing shop fur­ther down the road from our office, I was quite tak­en aback by the choice of sub­ject.

Me: “A what?”
Lizzy: “Oh… you know, a shop that make those paper hous­es that they burn for the dead.”
(Lizzy grew up in an envi­ron­ment that was not the least bit ‘pan­tang’ [super­sti­tious], so excuse her casu­al ref­er­ences to the sub­ject.)

You see, I have always been rather afraid of these things espe­cial­ly those life size paper dolls meant for the dead. I guess I have been watch­ing too many Hong Kong hor­ror flicks that I am now begin­ning to imag­ine things.

For those who are unfa­mil­iar with this Chi­nese tra­di­tion, joss paper is known as ghost or spir­it mon­ey meant for the dead. This shop, Chi­ang Pow Joss-Paper Trad­ing, makes paper offer­ings such as dolls, bicy­cles, ser­vants, cars and even man­sions!

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Out of curios­i­ty, I decid­ed to ask Madam Chi­ang, the lady boss of the shop, if she fears spir­its, con­sid­er­ing that she makes a liv­ing from “them”. With­out hes­i­ta­tion, she answered loud­ly, “Of course not, we are doing a good deed for them. Why should we be afraid?” Impressed by her gung-ho atti­tude, I went around the shop ask­ing the oth­er employ­ees if they shared the same sen­ti­ment. And all of them gave me the same answer but def­i­nite­ly not before giv­ing me a smile to sug­gest that I was being naïve for think­ing they would.

Madam Chi­ang has been run­ning the shop with her son for 3 years in Joo Chi­at Road but she has had pri­or expe­ri­ence in this line for over than 30 years. She first picked the trade in Malaysia, and had been work­ing for oth­ers before her son sug­gest­ed open­ing their own shop.

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

When asked if this tra­di­tion would ever be lost, there were mixed feel­ings in the shop. Most of the employ­ees felt that it would be pre­served as long as there are still Chi­nese peo­ple around while Madam Chi­ang gave an entire­ly dif­fer­ent answer. She was not too opti­mistic about the future of joss-paper mak­ing. In fact, she felt that it would be retired in the com­ing years as the amount of work put in is sim­ply too tax­ing.

More­over, the younger gen­er­a­tions are not inter­est­ed in such things”, she lament­ed.

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

Some of us may frown at their occu­pa­tion, espe­cial­ly their deal­ings with the dead, but I guess it is often because we fail to under­stand where they are com­ing from and we tend to judge, sim­ply by look­ing at things on the sur­face. I have learnt a lot from my time spent in the shop and as I recount my expe­ri­ence with Madam Chi­ang and com­pa­ny. It was sev­er­al after­noons filled with joy and laugh­ter. (Madam Chi­ang was com­plete­ly sold to Jeremy’s charms, as with most oth­er aun­ties we encounter. -Lizzy) Almost every oth­er minute, I would break out in laugh­ter because of her sly and quirky sense of humor, and was also equal­ly touched by how warm­ly they accom­mo­dat­ed us despite their hec­tic work­ing sched­ule.

This is Chi­ang Pow Joss-paper Trad­ing shop and it is found along Joo Chi­at Road.

Chiang Pow Joss Paper Trading

More pic­tures on our Flickr page.


One Comments

  • ahyiang

    January 13, 2012

    Hi! Do you mind giv­ing me the exact address of the shop? I won­der­ing if they make DSLRs.

    Reply

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