This chapter traces the origins of the paper money custom by drawing on ethnology, folklore, and history. It first considers the three ways that people in China and in other parts of the world send valuables to the netherworld: placing the thing of value—Chinese often refer to it as a vessel—in a ritual venue and inviting visiting spirits to partake of its essence; interring the valuable with the dead or as a hoard for one's use in the afterlife; destroying the vessel by immolation or by exposure to the elements of wind and water, but especially to the element of fire. The chapter then discusses folktales devoted to the paper money custom before turning to five hypotheses that purport to explain the advent and/or popularization of the custom.
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