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This is a joke (Chinese Malaysian style)

October 27th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday I went to buy joss sticks and joss paper to pray for my ancestors.

The towkay asked me if I wanted to buy paper iphone to burn for my ancestors. I said they know how to use or not? He said Steve Jobs already there, can teach them to use. I said ok loh.

He asked want to buy casing? I also said ok.

Next he asked me if I wanted Bluetooth? I said might as well loh.

What about charger? I said need charger meh? He said of course lah, after battery no power how? So I bought the charger also.

Then I asked for his name card. He said why you need my name card?

I said I burn for my ancestors. For warranty claim, they will contact you direct.

Towkay here means boss or owner and originated from Minan Chinese phrase 头家. “loh”, “lah”, “meh” are commonly use as emphasis in the dialect.

Anyway, I don’t take credit for creating this joke but it makes me laugh. It was forwarded by a Chinese Malaysian friend. The English style written is typical of how people who don’t have advanced English language education would write in Malaysia or Singapore. It used to be frowned upon in educated circle (read snobbish circle) but has become accepted as a joke and is popularly known as Singlish or Manglish.

As a boy I am always fascinated by the paper replica of money, servant, clothing, car, computer etc. Today we have iphone, ipad and all sorts of things you can think of. In fact, your imagination is only the limit. Check out the last pic in the following link.


A short history of the tradition and picture of paper electronics.


Categories: culture, religion Tags: ,
  1. November 2nd, 2013 at 21:31 | #1

    Great joke!

  2. November 4th, 2013 at 10:39 | #2

    Without thinking too much, I think this joke does reveal a common character of being Chinese.

    We are religious of sorts. We pay our ancestors respect, but we are not fanatics of gods who might order us to go to war and die for his glories….

    We pay respect by respecting tradition – but also question it. Is burning money enough? Maybe that iPhone is important!

    And we can do both – pay respect, respect tradition while questioning it … and still be practical about it! Here we can be entrepreneurial and make some money from it! Steve Jobs is over on the beyond yonder now, so he will teach everyone there to use iphones, ipads, etc. How clever, funny. Hope you didn’t have to pay too much for those!! 😉

  3. Black Pheonix
    November 4th, 2013 at 10:53 | #3

    There is something deeply symbolic about the Chinese ritual of burning Paper made objects, which I think most non-Chinese do not appreciate.

    We Chinese make those paper objects, money, cars, iphones, etc., not as some cute (but backward) ritual, but rather PAPER (as 1 of the great Chinese inventions), is the symbol of where ideas/thoughts are embodied.

    Thus, when we Chinese burn paper objects in sacrifice to our ancestors, we are sending our thoughts and wishes to them.

    It’s the thought that counts.

    But this is also a ritual that has evolved greatly in Chinese history, to a point of civilized respect.

  4. November 4th, 2013 at 11:46 | #4

    The ritual originated from one of the oldest Chinese belief, in that there is an afterlife. In ancient Chinese mind, the afterlife is a replication of the living world. It used to be that the kings and nobles would bury their valuables and build a miniature building for their own use after they passed away. During the Xia and Shang dynasty, live human sacrifice of favourite concubines, servants would also be practiced. There are countless archeological evidence to show that this practice go on since the Xia dynasty (4000 bc) and lasted nearly two thousand years. The most extreme example being the tomb of the Qin emperor Ying Zhen.

    The practice gradually evolved into simply burning paper replica. Although still wasteful, it is more economical than burying real object. After the Han dynasty, the tombs of emperors and nobles actually become less elaborate due to this evolution.

    As a boy I actually doubt whether my ancestors would get the money, car or electronics gadget we in the living world would burn for them. I do some soul searching and eventually realized that it is done more for the comfort of the living! You see, if you cannot provide those luxuries for your parents in life, wouldn’t it be comfortable to know that you can provide those for them after they passed away?

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