A recent visit to a Chinese supermarket led to a number of somewhat less than pragmatic purchases, including a pack of Hell Money. Alternatively known as joss money, it’s intended to be burned or otherwise offered to people and deities in the afterworld. Hence also the term joss sticks, AKA the incense burned before a shrine or altar. I guess the underlying idea is that the smoke carries the prayers up to the afterlife, and so by extension the burned money also travels the same way. You can get Hell (or joss) clothes, cars, and household appliances although they’re frowned upon by the authorities in mainland China as “vulgar” and “feudal”. You see loads of this kind of thing in places like Hong Kong, though. Fifty million HK$ is worth about four million British Pounds, nearly five million Euros or about $6.5 million US… and one typically offers them in bundles, so either the dead have serious spending power or Hell inflation is totally out of control.
The Hell part is a bit of a misnomer that was imposed because of Christians berating traditional Chinese ancestor worshippers that they’d go to Hell when they died. The Chinese response was something like: “Yes, we already know we go to the afterlife when we die but thanks for giving us an English name for it.” “Joss” is another misnomer, a corruption of “deus”, i.e. god.
The fellow in the middle is the Jade Emperor of Heaven 玉皇 Yu Huang, romanised as “yu wong” on the bottom right of the note, beside the dragon’s arm. The signature next to the phoenix on the left “yen looh” refers to 阎罗王 Yanluowang (wang=”king”), the King of Death who judges people in the afterlife.
The reverse side is less interesting, except that it explicitly spells out in English that it’s a Hell bank note, it looks a bit more like an archaic US bill, and there’s a little drawing of what I assume is the Bank of Hell.
More oddities of capitalism:
Ruining the value of money: a guide, in which the 14th century Emperor of Mali spends so much gold he single-handedly breaks the economy.
The English Usurer (is not tolerable).
To be sold: Books, Ribbons, Hannibal, William and Nancy. There was also a raffle in which first prize was a horse and second prize was “a mulatto girl” [sic].