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Da Nang Bans Votive Paper...Again

In Vietnam, votive paper is everywhere. Take a stroll through any residential neighborhood and you're likely to find at least one person burning brightly-colored money, clothing or other odds and ends to provide for their relatives in the afterlife.

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But for Da Nang residents, this may no longer be the case. Officials in the central city have instituted a citywide ban on the use of votive paper in public places, calling the practice “littering” and arguing that it goes “against urban culture”, according to Thanh Nien.

As a result, votive paper is now forbidden in Da Nang, where first-time violators can be fined VND1-2 million for the practice. The new regulation specifically places the onus on funeral service organizers, who are responsible for keeping clients from using votive paper in public. Repeat offenders, local authorities warn, will be banned from conducting funeral services altogether. 

According to city officials, their anti-votive paper campaign over the summer was well-received by local residents and encouraged the government to propose the new regulation.

The biggest problem, city officials argue, is that burning votive paper creates more work for street cleaners. Da Nang residents hold approximately 25-40 funerals a day, each throwing or burning up to 35 kilos of votive offerings. 

“One day I finished sweeping a street, but when I returned I saw it covered in votive money, salt and rice,” Thuy, a street cleaner, told Thanh Nien. “I cried because I had to clean the street again.”

This is not the first time Da Nang has tried to get rid of the long-standing tradition. In 2006, the city also attempted to ban not only the use but sale and production of votive paper in an effort to clean up its streets. 

But whether locals agree with the ban or not, it may help Da Nang residents save money: according to official figures from 2010, Vietnam spends a mint on votive paper every year, burning tens of thousands of metric tons for the dead. Hanoians purchase the most, pouring VND400 billion (US$20.6 million) into votive paper sales annually.

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