Hyperinflation in Heaven

Technocrats in Beijing may relieved by the recent report that the inflation that once worried many is now under control. But as the approaching of Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Day, it is likely that the monster of inflation is going to strike Heaven again.

If there’s a Heaven, or more precisely, an “after world,” where the dead continue to “live” a form of being, what would it be like? For millions of East Asians who adhere to Daoism-inspired folk religions, the answer is simple: a pretty secular world, where despite the rule of spirits and gods, wealth still matters. Apparently, a sort of money-based economy is probably in place there. And thus the danger of inflation.

Every year during Qingming, or the anniversary of the deceased (his or her birthday/ “deathday”), family members would gather together and visit the tomb to pay tribute, which is also an important even to demonstrate one’s Confucian virtue of filial piety. Tributes, including the favorite dish and drink of the deceased, would be thrown into fire, which allegedly can transfer the delicacy into Heaven. And of course, although the dead may miss the bok-choy dumplings made by their loved ones, burning of stocks of fake paper money can make sure they will be able to purchase food produced in Heaven, if they prefer.

Traditionally the paper currency was made of a kind of (cheap) yellowish plain paper. More affluent people would pay more to get finer alternatives, such as paper-made gold bar. But with the changing ethos of the Chinese society, the fake currency is obviously becoming much more colorful. Both literally and metaphorically.

This is a bill of 8 billion RMB (roughly $1.2 billion), issued by the Central Bank of Heaven-and-Earth, with a a smiling Jade Emperor guarantying the bill can be used in both Heaven and Underworld.

This is a $ 1 million bill issued by the Federal Reserve of Heaven, with the smiling Jade Emperor. According to a recent NYTimes article, burning fake US dollar is also a popular Vietnamese custom.

Although obviously money talks equally loud above the sky and below the ground, dealing with bureaucrats is a time-consuming pain. So the accommodating suppliers create “international motored vehicle driving license from heaven to underworld” like the one shown below to help the deceased “live” a easier life.

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2 thoughts on “Hyperinflation in Heaven

  1. Pingback: a dialog on God (definition of “God”) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

  2. Pingback: Folk Religion « Solmaz Hafezi

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