This book examines the Chinese custom of burning paper money and the extent to which paper money is embedded in the everyday lives of people who use it. More specifically, it considers how people talk about paper money, conceive of it, and link it to the other materials that signify the spiritual side of daily lives. It traces the origins of the paper money custom based on ethnology, folklore, and history, and explains the meanings and motives behind the custom in terms of structuralism, historical materialism, and phenomenology. It also asks what is actually sacrificed in burning paper money by describing the experience of consecrating—touching, handling, folding—the paper for the flames. Finally, the book explains how the paper money custom has changed in modern times in ways that conform to the ideology of realism and how its traditional ludic or “unruly” spirit has turned into a burlesque.
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