The environmental impact of traditional Chinese religion
The China Post new staff
August 27, 2014, 12:04 am TWN
In the thousands of years of its history, Chinese religion and culture have evolved and integrated to become what they are today: a tradition that is part of the daily life of a typical Chinese individual.
Currently, the Chinese tradition is a fusion between three primary beliefs, based on the familial and government philosophies of Confucianism, the deities of Taoism as well as the teachings of Buddhism. The three ideals have also been mixed with the natural habit of religious worship to become the religion that we commonly see in Chinese dwellings today.
With the exception of perhaps Chinese Christians, the Chinese people observe the various festive and memorial days as dictated by the Lunar calendar as well as the many taboos and superstitions that dominate the belief. Most if not all festivals require the burning of either joss sticks or paper money, with memorial days and funerals burning both along with representational items made of cardboard.
Instead of concentrating the burning of items in one area, the offerings are usually burned in large quantities by many people on different days within the span of a week. The burning tends to create large quantities of smoke and ash, which become debris that is scattered around neighborhoods, while smoke is always present as new offerings are created before the old ones can clear.
During Chinese New Year, firecrackers and joss sticks are used instead for merrier celebratory purposes. Yet during and toward the end of the festival, the smoke created either by joss sticks or firecrackers is also abundant, though not to the same level of severity as is observed during memorial festivals. Garbage created from the firecrackers is problematic even today, when the practice is widely prohibited by authorities.
Although this kind environment was acceptable in the past, with entire cities of households doing the same, it should definitely be called hazardous by today's standards.
The most obvious downside to these traditions is none other than air pollution. Molecules that are the byproducts of burning in bulk have been scientifically proven to be harmful to the planet's atmosphere. Smog is also known to be harmful to humans, especially when accompanied by smoke.