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Burning Money: The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld by C. Fred Blake

By C. Fred Blake

For 1000 years around the size and breadth of China and past, humans have burned paper replicas of precious things-most frequently money-for the spirits of deceased kin, ancestors, and myriads of demons and divinities. even though usually denigrated as wasteful and vulgar and every now and then prohibited via governing elites, at the present time this venerable customized is as well known as ever. Burning funds explores the cultural common sense of this universal perform whereas addressing greater anthropological questions about the nature of worth. the guts of the paintings integrates chinese language and Western concept and analytics to enhance a theoretical framework that the writer calls a materialist aesthetics. This contains attention of ways the burning of paper cash meshes with different customs in China and world wide.

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Extra info for Burning Money: The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld

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Although I found this paper in Changsha, all the indications of its manufacture, assemblage, and décor indicate that its provenance was the southeastern coast. There, along the Fujian and Taiwan littorals, all paper money is simply called “gold” ( jīn). In 1975, Hou collected and described in detail sixteen types of gold paper on top of eight types of silver and seven types of treasury cash. As the forms of value are increasingly concentrated, they are increasingly differentiated for sumptuary purposes.

In most places the paper is modified with rows of perforations to imitate the strings of cash that were the everyday currency of dynastic China. The perforations may be made by folding and cutting with scissors or knife, or punched with a hand-held nail or with a specially made metal punch that is hit with a wooden mallet, or they may be machine punched, printed, or embossed by a family workshop or commercial firm. One such family workshop is in Yaxi district of Jishou city, western Hunan. This workshop in an old multistory wooden building supplies the surrounding neighborhoods with its paper money, a square sheet of perforated papers.

There are people who don’t waste time and paper doing this, but simply toss real money on the way to the cemetery. Suffice it for now that paper cash figures prominently at funerals. It is thought that the neophyte soul must pass through numerous checkpoints, to pay off the demonic spirits that man those stations, on the way to rarefaction and redemption and possible rebirth, or, perhaps some happier place of repose. The neophyte souls, still heavy with corruption, must carry plenty of this small-denomination change to pave the way.

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