每日跟讀#497: Houses to burn


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每日跟讀#497: Houses to burn

Frank Hann was disappointed with the available houses: they were all generic and overpriced. The marketing executive decided to build his own, even though he knew this was going against tradition. His family threw their support behind him, and within less than a month he had constructed an abode complete with hot springs, all for his deceased father-in-law.


Burning paper models — from cars to houses — is a common folk practice at funerals in Taiwan. Many believe that the spirit world mirrors the human world, and so the dearly departed need a place to live, food to eat and money to burn. Setting alight in a ritual manner these kinds of paper objects transports them to the spirit world, which keeps the ghost of the departed happy and brings luck to the living.


“The tradition dates back to the Tang dynasty,” says Tseng Kuang-hsing, owner of Jixing Paper Art Co. Tseng began building paper model houses 40 years ago when he was 16, a time, he says, when the industry was dominated by Taoist monks and priests.


Tseng oversees a staff of six employees at two different workshops on a narrow street in eastern Taipei. In the older of the two workshops, three craftspeople build traditional paper houses using long strips of bamboo for the structure and large pieces of paper with different patterns that can be found at any temple in Taiwan.


Deities from the Chinese pantheon adorn the larger of the paper houses, which range in price from NT$3,000 to NT$30,000. “The older generation prefers this style,” Tseng said, adding that it typically takes two days to construct the larger models.


Across the street at Tseng’s second workshop, younger staff assemble more refined houses. Considerably smaller than the traditional houses (NT$25,000), these are two and three-story mansions (NT$55,000) as well as a Japanese-style bungalow (NT$20,000). These houses take between seven and 10 days to complete. There are no bamboo frames supporting these houses. Instead, the interior of each resembles that of a suburban North American home. Each room is meticulously designed and crafted. Some, for example, have a sofa in front of a fireplace, a canopy bed in the master bedroom or a kitchen complete with refrigerator and stove.


With modernization of the industry has come an explosion in the products on offer. Tseng’s glossy catalog shows items such as desktop computers (NT$3,000), a mahjong set (NT$1,500), a scooter (NT$3,500) and an airplane (NT$3,000), all made of paper. For the crooner in life, there are karaoke machines (NT$1,500). If things in the spirit world heat up, air conditioners can be purchased for NT$2,500.


(台北時報章厚明譯)(Noah Buchan, Staff reporter)

Source article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2018/12/01/2003705232/2

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