July 19, 2006

China On My Mind...

It seems that everyone I know is going, has just gone, or wants to go to China. Well, I may not have a China trip planned, but luckily I can have Chinatown any day of the week. During a little tour we took last weekend we stumbled upon my new obsession: accoutrements for the afterlife. I've found some conflicting reports about these amazing paper model creations, but I think they're meant to be ceremoniously burned to ensure that the deceased's spirit can make use of them on the other side. The shop was selling everything from Barbie-sized Mercedes-Benz's, to watches, cigarettes, and even rice cookers. We picked up a few things including this box of grooming and bathroom supplies with each item made out of meticulously cut and folded pieces of paper and cardboard.
And as if that weren't enough, my awesome friend Kate just got back from China and brought me this unbelievable needlepoint portrait of Chairman Mao. I love it!

1 comment:

Derek said...

Bev sent me some great information on the paper offerings, including a link for further info.
Thanks Bev!

Purchased by mourners from "paper shops," paper replica constructions of "necessary" goods and items are displayed at funeral gatherings as offerings to the dead for their use in the afterworld. Gifts of paper clothing, toothpaste and servants are accompanied by desirable modern consumer durables, such as VCRs, mobile telephones, Mercedes and radios.

Linda Sun Crowder, Cultural Anthropologist, on Rituals for the Dead
"Within China, there's always been this tradition of offering things to the spirit because in their view, the spirit world is a parallel reflection of the physical world. If you needed a house, car, TV, servants in this life, you will surely need them in the next. So a whole cottage industry has developed of Chinese paper funeral goods for burning. There are karaoke sets, TV sets, a chest full of paper clothes, watches, all to be consumed at the grave in flames. Often they'll have a paper bridge with the idea that this is for the spirit to cross over into the spirit world. It's usually the Buddhists and the Taoists that burn."