Joss paper maker Ong Meng Khoon

What made you decide to join this business?
It’s a family business. My father started it and I took over and run it alone now.
Do joss paper makers have a formal title?
No, we’re just businessmen.
How much does joss paper cost?
It depends on the grade. Low-grade joss paper is about $1.50 per bundle and high-grade joss paper is about $20 to $30 per bundle.
Is a particular type of paper used to make joss paper?
Yes, these days we use recycled bamboo paper. We’re just as concerned about the environment as everyone else.
Who designs the paper or is there a set design?
Some manufacturers come up with new designs but traditional joss paper has the gods of longevity, prosperity and health on it.
What is the most bizarre item you’ve had to import?
Joss paper models of a dressing table and a table lamp. Someone even asked for a car with a functioning door and headlights.
Is there a request you’ve had to turn down?
No, because we’re in the service industry therefore accommodating every request is a must. Our only concern is that the customer be able to afford the request.
Is the joss paper business thriving?
The business depends on festivals like Chinese New Year, Zing Ming (the Third Month) and Hungry Ghost (the Seventh Month). It’s during these times that we draw in the most cash.
Will your children take over the business?
I hope not. I would like them to do well in school and have a stable life.
Do you think there are enough joss paper bins in Singapore?
Yes, besides the bins, there are wells in HDB estates built for this purpose alone.

Is there anything else joss paper can be used for besides appeasing the dead?
Yes, we hope that by burning the paper, those that we burn it for will bring us luck and health.
Has anyone tried to be a smartass and pay you in hell money?
No, but when anyone asks me for money, I tell them to come and take what they need. Money is all I have!
What’s the exchange rate between hell money and local currency?
I’d have to be dead and in hell to tell you that!­