This chapter explains the meanings and motives behind the paper money custom from the perspective of structuralism. More specifically, it offers a structuralist analysis of the semiotic role of paper money in the common ritual service. It considers the liturgical order of the common ritual service familiar to most Chinese; the system of signs that underlies this liturgical order constitutes its canonical order. Using an ethnological theory of the ritual process in tandem with a Chinese theory of cosmic change, the chapter examines the alchemy of ritual fire by which worldly materials such as paper money are sublimated into the numinous aspects of the human psyche. It combines the insights of the anthropological ritual process with the Chinese cosmology of yīnyángwŭxíng to elucidate the meaning of paper money in the structure of China's common ritual service.
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