discussion on incense paper scattering during seventh lunar month

Discussion On Incense Paper Scattering During The Seventh Lunar Month

Incense paper offerings have a strong cultural and religious meaning to some people so there is a compromise of allowing for the burning of incense paper in incense burning bins to reduce smoke and impact on the environment.

On top of burning paper offerings, some people scatter the incense paper.

I was having a walk around my neighbourhood at night and I noticed around some incense bins, there are scattered pieces of incense paper on the floor.

incense paper scattering 1

incense paper scattering 2

incense paper scattering 3

In this article, we will look at the scattering of incense paper during the seventh lunar month prayers.

Why Do People Scatter Incense Paper?

The incense paper used for scattering is called 溪錢 or “stream money”. They are mostly beige, rectangular with three round holes symbolizing copper money.

The stream money is said to be used to “open the road” to prevent disturbance by the spirits.

Some also say that the scattering around the burning bins is for the distribution of the offerings to the departed souls that do not have loved ones to burn offerings for them.

What Do Different Representatives Have To Say?

Chairman (General Affairs) of Singapore Buddhist Federation Venerable Shi You Guang made a similar statement, asking devotees never to toss joss paper into the air and to think about how the cleaners feel when they have to clean up all the mess.

He also says that scattering the incense paper has the same effect as throwing them into the burner.

I have reached out to NEA, the Taoist Federation, Buddhist Federation and an incense paper shop to ask for their comments on the matter and I will update this with their comments.

Update 13/09/2021

I received a reply from my town council as seen below.

BTPTC reply on incense scattering

There is zero mention about the cleaners except saying that cleaning will be done more frequently which misses the point completely. I disagree with completely with the statement that they can only advise people to be considerate. If you affect other people, something CAN and HAVE to be done.

I want the people who do this to say outright that they are ok with the incense scattering without cleaning up and let others clean up after that.

Do we really need to wait for this act to die off by itself without any intervention?

Joint Advisory By Religious Groups

In 2013, there was also a joint advisory by three religious groups – the Taoist Federation (Singapore), the Singapore Buddhist Federation and the Wat Ananda Metyarama – posted on the notice boards of HDBs to address the “customary throwing” of joss paper in the air to indicate “prosperity”, saying that such a practice is not needed.

Town Councils Discourage Scattering Of Incense Paper

amktc responsible burning of incense and joss paper

Source: Ang Mo Kio Town Council

In a post by Ang Mo Kio Town Council, they encourage residents to “Refrain from the customary throwing of joss paper in the air to indicate “Prosperity” and partake in burning joss papers instead”.

mptc responsible burning of incense and joss paper

Source: Marine Parade Town Council

A poster by Marine Parage Town Council advises residents to “Please burn joss paper in burners instead of scattering them”.

What Does The Law Say?

According to an FAQ by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment,

“Currently, there are no regulations against the burning of incense in public places. Being a multi-cultural society, the Government encourages members of public, including temples and residents, to practise graciousness and consideration for the environment and neighbouring premises, when carrying out religious practices in public places. The public is advised to clean up the place after they have made their offerings. When burning joss paper, candles etc., they should make use of the proper pits and containers provided at the designated points, such as those provided by the Town Councils.”

They do not specifically talk about the scattering but they advise cleaning up the place after making the offerings.

TL, DR

Although there are no explicit regulations, religious representatives, organizations and the government has been encouraging the use of incense bins and to prevent the scattering of incense paper. Even if you have to scatter the incense paper, they also advise the people to clean up after the offerings. The cleaners will also have a hard time cleaning up all the incense paper.

What do you think about the scattering of incense paper? Do you think it is ok? If you have anything to add to the discussion, please comment below or contact me at consumelesslife@gmail.com.

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