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Burning MoneyThe Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld$
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C. Fred Blake

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835323

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835323.001.0001

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(p.53) Chapter 3 Origins
Burning Money

C. Fred Blake

University of Hawai'i Press

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.

Keywords:   paper money, Chinese custom, ethnology, folklore, afterlife, China, netherworld, folktales

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