During Hungry Ghost Festival in Malaysia, paper vaccines are popular items

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. syringe / səˈrɪndʒ / (n.) – a device made with a tube and needle that’s used for pushing or sucking liquid

    It’s not safe to reuse needles or syringes. We always throw them out after we take someone’s blood.

  2. vial / ˈvaɪ əl / (n.) – a small glass or plastic container used to hold liquids

    The scientist kept the chemical samples in vials.

  3. leave out / liv aʊt / (phrasal v.) – to let something remain out in the open

    Don’t leave out food while camping. It might attract bears!

  4. pass away / pæs əˈweɪ / (phrasal v.) – to die

    It’s been a year since my grandfather passed away.

  5. deceased / dɪˈsist / (n.) – a dead person

    We light candles to honor the deceased.


Read the text below.

As the world scrambles to inoculate people against COVID-19, one store owner in Malaysia is finding his paper vaccines have become popular.

Raymond Shieh Siow Leong sells religious goods at his shop in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. This year, one of his fastest-selling items is a box set with a syringe and two vaccine vials made of paper.

People are buying them to honor the dead during the Hungry Ghost Festival. They leave out food and paper objects for the spirits of the dead when they return to Earth during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar.

This year, the festival is from Aug. 8 to Sept. 6. “The COVID-19 situation in our country is quite serious and many people passed away before receiving the vaccine. I hope this product can help the deceased to fulfill their dying wish,” Shieh said. (Reuters)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Malaysians were buying paper vaccines to honor the dead during this year’s Hungry Ghost Festival. What do you think of that (ex. interesting, a little sad)? Would paper vaccines be a popular product in your country too? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Shieh hopes his product can help the deceased to fulfill their dying wish. Do you think it’s important to fulfill a person’s dying wish? What kind of dying wishes are common (ex. for children to graduate from college, for fighting people to become close again)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Many countries honor the dead in different ways (ex. the Day of the Dead in Mexico, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the Philippines). What kind of holidays/festivals to honor the dead does your country have? What kind of traditions are common? Discuss.
  • Do you think it’s okay for tourists to take part in holidays/festivals to honor the dead? Would you be interested in joining the Hungry Ghost Festival in Malaysia or the Day of the Dead in Mexico? Why or why not? Discuss.