Battling Covid even in the afterlife — paper vaccines and masks are being offered to the dead during the Qingming 'Tomb Sweeping' Festival
- The Qingming Festival is a time for
Chinesecommunities to honor the dead.
- It involves making offerings — including paper replicas of things — to the spirits of loved ones.
With vaccines, medicines, masks, and hand sanitizer, these
Even though the items look very realistic at first glance, it's clear once you pick up a box that everything is, in fact, made of paper and designed to be burned.
During the Qingming Festival, which falls on April 5 this year, Chinese communities worldwide honor the dead by visiting and tidying up the graves of their loved ones and making offerings to their spirits. For some people, that involves burning paper replicas of real-life things. Objects burned include paper computers, paper mansions, and even paper mistresses, according to Eye Magazine.
"People believe that these burnt offerings will become the actual objects in the
The pandemic has led to the introduction of Covid-themed offerings, on top of the more typical paper models of mansions, clothes, and cars.
At Ban Kah Hiang Trading, one of Singapore's oldest joss paper stores, two types of Covid paper care packs are sold among the thousands of other items on offer for the dead. One comprises paper masks, safety goggles, sanitizer, and digital thermometers, while the other pack has paper vaccines and herbal medicines (each cost S$3.80, or about $2.80).
"We always try to keep up with what's going on in the news and sell things based on trends. For example, hotpot and bubble tea have become very popular, so we have paper models of those," store owner Alex Teo, 33, told Insider.
"Younger customers especially like to buy what they think are trendy things to burn for their ancestors. Since Covid has taken over our lives, it's not surprising that they want to give these things to their loved ones, too," he said, adding that he has sold about 60 Covid-themed paper packs this year.
Across the border in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Chui Teng Teng has sold more than 1,000 paper vaccine kits at her store, Yee Hen Trading, since last year's Qingming Festival. But she believes that many of her customers bought them for an entirely different reason.
"During this time last year, Covid patients were dying, and many of them didn't have access to vaccines yet. I think people wanted to burn these for their deceased relatives because they felt regret," she told Insider in Chinese. "Their loved ones couldn't get vaccines while they were living, so people wanted to make sure that their relatives got them in the afterlife."
Around Qingming last April, Malaysia averaged about 1,200 Covid cases daily, and vaccines were limited to frontline workers, according to the World Health Organization.
Despite the interest in pandemic-related items, both Chui and Teng said that the more traditional items are still in greater demand.
"Usually, it's about offering things that the dead couldn't afford in their lifetime, so people like to burn models of houses and Ferraris," Teo said.
"Paper clothes and shoes are also essential, so that their ancestors have new ones to wear. People just want their loved ones to have a better afterlife."
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