Friday, August 23, 2013
For hundreds of years, Chinese tradition dictates the burning of “ghost money” to ensure the comfort of ancestors in the afterlife. Ghost money is fake paper bills emblazoned with the image of the Emperor of the Underworld and are sold in shops offering a wide range of other paper products meant to be burned for the dead’s benefit like iPods, cupcakes, suits, six packs of beer, and even pet products.
The Chinese have typically burned small denominations of fives or tens, but due to inflation, the value of the biggest bills has grown considerably in recent decades. With the upcoming Hungry Ghost festival, the most popular bill is the $1 trillion dollar bill because “it allows the ghosts to buy many things, such as a fancy car and a big house.” However, small bills are still sold because the ghosts do need some spare change. Deceased ancestors also need ghost money in order to bribe bureaucrats and support their gambling habits.
Click here for a video describing this otherworldly practice.
See Te-Ping Chen, In Hong Kong, Inflation Worries Spook the Spirit World, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 19, 2013.