on Penang’s Carnarvon Street, Ah Ban Paper Oblation Shop was established by Mr.
Loh Ah Ban’s father. Ah Ban has been in this trade for 60 years and feels very
fortunate now to have his son-in-law, Gary who is interested in the trade.
Ban’s forte is making paper crafts for Chinese ritual offerings to deities and
during festivals. In Chinese customs, there’s a ritual where paper houses and
replicas of servants, mobile phones, cars, household goods etc. are burnt when
someone passes away, and it has to be done for the deceased at least 3 days
before his/her funeral. It is believed that the offerings made will be brought
over with the deceased to their afterlives. Other than what’s being offered
traditionally, Ah Ban also makes these paper effigies in modern designs when
there is a request. As this ritual is very strongly observed by the Chinese
community in Penang, majority of Ah Ban’s orders are during the Hungry Ghost
Festival, and for funerals. They do not get many walk-in customers. Majority of
the times, paper houses and replicas they’ve produced will be supplied to shops
around Penang who sells these paraphernalia. The Chinese believe that the
seventh month in the lunar calendar is when spirits roam around the earth. As
such, replicas of the King of Hades are made during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
The King of Hades is said to be the guardian of each neighbourhood and it is
believed that He will observe and protect the people from being disturbed by
the spirits. The Hades are in different colours, with each carrying different
meanings. As believed, neighbourhoods with Red Hades are the safest and the
Blue Hades will usually be placed at neighbourhoods that experiences the most
disturbance. White Hades are commonly used by those of Cantonese native. The
faces of the Kings of Hades are made from scratch at Ah Ban’s shop, where he
starts by using a large amount of paper that is soaked in water.
process of making any of these paper effigies is long and meticulous. A lot of
the steps are still being done by hand, from assembling each stick to the
patching of coloured papers. Each paper house has a basket containing paper
money assembled to it and the use of these baskets differs according to the
native origins of each family. The different natives of Hokkien, Teochew and
Cantonese each uses different types of baskets, varying from colour and shape.
Paper money is placed in the basket as the Chinese believe that this money will
come as useful to the deceased in their afterlife.
Ah Ban’s, the framework of these paper houses is made using Batam wood and
Japanese paper. This Japanese paper has a high cost, ranging from an average of
RM800 per packet, and this is used to tie each stick that is made from Batam
wood to another. To secure it further, Ah Ban uses self-made glue made from
multipurpose flour. When the paper houses are completed, it is the practise to
have the deceased’s name written in Chinese on its top, right and left of the
One of Ah Ban’s specialty is using high quality printed coloured papers on the body of these paper effigies, where the colours will glow when it is in contact with light. The designs of these replicas are created in-house, using coloured paper. At Ah Ban’s shop, it usually takes them a day to complete a 6-feet paper house and about 2 days for an 8-feet paper house. Larger paper houses will require more time and for paper houses as big as 12-feet, it’ll take them up to a week to complete. The prices for the different sizes of paper houses can vary vastly. A 6-feet paper house will cost about RM1,000 and the price could go up to RM10,000 for a 12-feet product.
tedious and tiring, Ah Ban and Gary puts in their best in completing their
work. Their shop is open everyday from as early as 9am till 6pm. They are
pleased to be known as one of the most sought-after paper oblation craftsman in
Penang and they are determined to deliver top quality in every piece of their