People call the religious festival the Festival of Hungry Ghosts. Held for a whole month, the festival is regularly celebrated by Buddhists and Taoists throughout Southeast Asia.
The adherents of this religion believe that the spirits of the dead return to Earth during the seventh month of the Lunar calendar. During this time, they usually burn incense and make offerings of food and paper items that the deceased may wish for.
At this year’s festival, a syringe box set and two vaccine vials made of paper were top sellers at Raymond Shieh Siow Leong’s Yee Hen Trading religious goods shop in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Baru.
“The COVID-19 situation in our country is quite serious. Many people die before receiving the vaccine. Therefore, I hope that those who have died can fulfill their wishes before they die,” he explained.
The craftsman says he started making paper vaccines in early August, and produces about 30 to 50 sets a day. Each set costs 22.80 ringgit ($5.45) and Shieh says he has sold more than 200 sets so far.
“We made this paper vaccine just to test it out. We didn’t expect the reaction to be this good. Orders kept coming, and we had to work late into the night to make this product,” he added.
Malaysia is listed as one of the countries with the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates in Southeast Asia with a total caseload of nearly 1.6 million and a death toll of 14,818. About 57 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While known as a predominantly Muslim country, about 20 percent of its 32 million people practice Buddhism, the second most common religion. [ab/uh]