Familial piety and ancestor worship are intrinsic parts of traditional Hong Kong culture. No more so is this the case than throughout the seventh month of the lunar calendar, when ghosts are said to be cutting about in search of good eats and cool stuff to take back to their afterlife digs. The 15th day of the seventh lunar month – the hungry ghost festival, which falls on August 15 this year – is of particular importance, and is when you should start burning the really good stuff. Here are some of the best places to buy your ghostly goodies. By Sarah Moran and Graham Turner
RECOMMENDED: The buying and burning of paper effigies is a tradition that is unfortunately on the decline, and it’s not the only disappearing cultural experience here in Hong Kong.
Where to buy paper offerings in Hong Kong
One of the most famous paper offering shops in Hong Kong, Bo Wah has been around since 1963 and has been a favourite of local celebrities. Most notably, Beyond’s bassist Wong Ka-keung commissioned the store to make a papier-mache Gibson guitar.
In recent years, the original owner’s son – who now runs the shop with his dad – has attempted to modernise the shop’s creations and has become famous for making Darth Vader and Stormtrooper masks.
It’s not just humans that want to enjoy life as a ghost. Dead pets are also clamouring for spectral treats, beds and clothes. Also, there’s a fair chance that ancestors have acquired their own pet companions in the afterlife, so they’ll be needing stuff for it. If they don’t, just send them a pet by mercilessly burning a paper animal. All this and more awaits at Zhun Sheng Hang.
One of the more forward-thinking spots on this list, Skea uses environmentally friendly materials which burn out in five minutes and don’t emit harmful gasses. Some of the more interesting items in its range include a pool table and houses that come complete with TV and furniture. As you can probably tell from the picture, the detail is pretty amazing – these definitely fall within the upper crust of papier mache.
This unassuming Sham Shui Po spot specialises in a very particular kind of offering (although they still have all the popular big hitters). Yes, Shen Chin Dang Ming offers burnable paper sub-divided mansions so that your ancestors can collect rent even in the afterlife. And what are they gonna do with all that sweet rent money? Well, they won't need to worry about saving up and investing in their own spectral space as you can buy them a ready-made mansion of their own – complete with a helper who they can keep in servitude for all eternity.
Out of all the paper effigy and lamp shops on this stretch of Queen’s Road West, Tinyi has by far some of the more... esoteric selections. Choice paper picks include an approximated race track and paper viagra. Presumably not intended to be used at the same time.
If you’re looking for more traditional, popular offerings, this Shek Tong Tsui store has ’em all. Not to mention some more unique creations such as paper IFC malls, cha chaan tengs, bowls of sashimi, wedding dresses, bras, full-sized slot machines (pictured) and, um, hearing aids.
If navigating these shops seems like a bit of trauma, you can always rely on Taobao – online purveyor of pretty much everything. We found some cracking options on the site including paper servants, massage chairs, refrigerators and AC units.