Dead Man Driving
Chinese believes in life after death. Hell currencies as well as paper-made clothes and other basic appliances were burnt as offerings to the dead. This is often due by the children and grandchildren of the dead. This custom probably has its basis from the fact that all major religions in China preach highly on filial piety. It is often emphasised that this duty is to be carried on even after the death of one’s parent. By burning these paper-made appliances, it is believed that the dead will be able to receive it in the other world.
In the modern days, this custom continues with various modifications. Today, people burn paper-made electrical appliances such as mobile phones, VCD players, Mercedes cars, etc. Such offerings are not only made during funerals but also during prayers to the dead as well as during the ghost festival on the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar.
The following story, contributed by akasaka, is related to the above custom.
This story happened to my mother when she was young. Back then, she was living in Taiping, a town in the north of Perak State, with her family. It was a small single storey house and my mother had to share a room with her sisters.
Something happened right outside the house on the night of the 14th day of the seventh lunar month. It was the so-called peak period of the ghost festival. It is believed that during this festival, the gates of hell are opened and the ghosts are set free to roam the streets for a month. The 15th of the seventh lunar month is when the ghosts are most active.
That night, all the children were pushed to bed early to avoid any risk of them encountering the spirits roaming the streets. As my mother and her sisters were trying to sleep, they heard barks and howls from the dogs around the neighborhood. Then, a hissing sound from afar became louder as if something was moving nearer and nearer towards their house. It was like the sound of paper and plastic being dragged on the road.
As the sound became louder and louder, my mother asked if everyone could hear it. Everyone did and they decided to take a peep outside to see what it was. The room didn’t have any window facing the front road but only small ventilation holes near the ceiling. The girls climbed up to look through the ventilation holes. They could see something moving along the road. At first, they couldn’t figure out what it was but it looked like a lone car, only much smaller.
My grandmother came into the room as they were busy figuring out what it was. She scolded them for looking outside when they had been warned not to. Later, my aunt asked what it was and my grandmother replied it was a paper-made car, one of those the Chinese burn for the dead. When they brought up the incident with the neighbours, everyone claimed they, too, saw the paper car ‘driving’ down the road.