TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Philippine mall has issued an apology after a photo surfaced of joss paper (金紙) being used for Lunar New Year decorations for a bazaar inside its grounds.
On Lunar New Year's Day (Feb 16), a man identified as Apian Tan posted a photo on Facebook of a bizarre combination of decoration inside a bazaar inside Ayala Malls The 30th, situated in the Metro Manila city of Pasig. In the photo, red, pineapple-shaped lanterns can been seen strung from the ceiling, but oddly in between each pineapple is a large joss paper note.
In his post, Tan writes in traditional Chinese characters:
"Celebration of new year layout
Pineapples signify the coming of prosperity
Joss paper signifies what
Serves as savings for travel expenses
Haha, I can only laugh."
The post quickly made its way across the Facebook and various Chinese Wechat groups and the mall was mocked for placing money meant to be burned for the spirit realm as a tacky form of decoration. Such joss paper is normally only meant to be used in ritual sacrifices to ancestors and deities, but never as decoration because it would be seen as a bad omen or curse.
One netizen observed that the decoration seemed to be a strange combination of Ghost Festival and Lunar New Year, somewhat like mixing Halloween and Christmas:
"Beckoning good brothers (ghosts)? Ghost Festival hasn't arrived yet! Lunar New Year and Ghost Festival have been mixed together."
The mall quickly issued an apology that same day explaining that the bazaar had been setup by an outside organizer:
"The 30th activity center was leased out to a bazaar organizer for the weekend, who placed festive decoration in our common area at the 2nd floor, as part of their activation for the Chinese New Year. When we realized that the decoration used was not in fact in celebration of the Chinese New Year, we immediately asked them to remove it."
For some, this apology was not enough, one irate netizen wrote:
"The one who decided to put on paper money for the dead during CNY should be fired, it is an insult."
Another netizen felt that the money was meant to be auspicious offering to the gods and not a bad omen:
"Those are not paper money for the dead, rather for the Gods. Characters written there are 招財進寶 (attracting wealth and bringing in treasures), 金元寶 (gold ingot), and 四季平安 (peace throughout the 4 seasons). Still, agree that these should not be used as decors. It was an honest mistake of the bazaar organizer."
The next day, the organizer of the event, The Common Good Market, also came forward and issued an apology the next day essentially explaining that they were misinformed:
"we sincerely apologize for the mistake. Rest assured that we have no intention of offending anybody. We were misinformed when we were sourcing decors for Chinese New Year."
Image of joss paper hanging ominously from the ceiling of the mall. (Image from Apian Tan)