Thursday, August 07, 2008

eastcoastlife offers Hell Money - WW

legal tender in Hell

Hell money is a special and modern form of joss paper. It is paper offering printed in the style of western bank notes. Hell money has large denominations, ranging from $10,000 to $500,000,000! On every bill, an image of the Jade Emperor is featured.... and his very western signature! :)

This paper money is burned so that our dead ancestors would have money to spend in the afterworld. These days, there are even credit cards and cheques!

The living believed Hell money can be used by the dead as a tribute to the Emperor of Hell for a shorter stay or to escape punishment.

Carefully packed offerings for ancestor worship,

To the Chinese, Hell does not carry a negative connotation. Hell is an in between place of learning, a place for spirits waiting to be reborn. It is another dimension of life. There is a maze of underground levels and chambers where souls are taken to atone for their earthly sins. All who die will automatically enter Hell to be judged before either being sent to Heaven, or for further punishment in the underworld, or to be reincarnated.

It is taboo to give Hell bank notes to a living person as a gift, even as a joke. It is considered as cursing the person's death, which is a grave insult.

When burning the notes, treat them as real money. They should not be casually tossed into the fire. Each bank note may be folded in a specific way before being tossed into the fire. It is believed that burning real money brings bad luck.

As kids, we were very fascinated with the Hell money but wasn't allowed to play with it. Every festive celebrations, we had to help our grandmother fold Hell money. Now, I'm folding Hell money to burn to my beloved grandmother and other ancestors.

I'm a Christian and have been chided by some church elders and members for doing such 'sinful' and unchristian-like things.

I'm a Chinese and I have my cultural customs to observe. My ancestors weren't Christians and if there is an afterlife, I have to ensure they don't suffer. It has nothing to do with religion. It has a lot to do with our Chinese roots, preserving our Chinese traditions and values and promoting filial piety.


  1. This paper money is burned so that our dead ancestors would have money to spend in the afterworld. >>>>

    wow! what a culture!

  2. Good for you for observing our culture! It's what makes us unique.

  3. "To the Chinese, Hell does not carry a negative connotation."

    Really? Whatever happened to the 18 levels of hell and endless torture scenes ala Haw Par Villa?

    "I'm a Christian and have been chided by some church elders and members for doing such 'sinful' and unchristian-like things."

    Good for you! Glad to see you taking a stand against rigid, closed-minded thinking and peer pressure!

  4. cc,
    yep... I'm proud to be a Chinese. We have a rich history and unique traditions and customs. :)

  5. hansolo,
    Do you believe you would go to Hell, for eternity? Most Chinese don't think they would.

    To them, only the evil ones who have committed sins on earth would be banished to the lowest level of Hell.

    Hell is a place every Chinese would pass and face judgement. The evil-doers would get their just desserts.... for what they did to others. They would receive what they do unto others in the torture chambers of Hell. That is what the owners of Haw Par Villa is trying to tell the living.

    I think Hell should be as normal as
    Chinatown... where there are shops and houses and the peaceful dead.... :)

    Nothing to be afraid of. I look forward to seeing my ancestors.

  6. Why use cash when there's credit facilities nowadays? LOL!

  7. ah u're another very modern christian like my bils. As long as u know your belief and you know u're not doing anything wrong....what's wrong leh? right?

  8. So that's what Hell Money is!! very interesting, ECL, loved hearing about your traditions (dating back thousands of years!!)

  9. Nowadays... gadgets like laptops and PDA also got... LOL!

  10. Ed,
    I won't advise giving them credit cards. I'm paying their bills, you know!?

    I wouldn't want the Hell Bank employees (牛头马面) to come chasing after me for payments!!!

  11. Hi Sasha!!
    Long time no see! Glad to see you today.

    It's always the people, I doubt God is so narrow-minded and insensitive.

    I stand firm in my belief, as long as I have peace and feel comfortable, I do it. Whatever negative things people say, I shut them out. :P

  12. mar,
    Hell money is meant to spend in Hell. :)

    I can be very rich only when I'm in Hell. hehe.....

    Interesting Chinese customs huh.... :)

  13. day-dreamer,
    Yes... you name it, they have it. So cute. I'm doing a post on that. hehe...

  14. I remember I was used to spend days to fold these paper thingies to burn. Kind of fun for the kids. A good opportunity to spend a lot of time with the family.

  15. tigerfish,
    阴国币 (currency from underworld). hehe...

  16. wilfrid,
    ahhhh.... you did it too as a kid!

    Yes, the busiest festival folding the joss paper is during Qing Ming and Hungry Ghost Festival. Took the whole family days to do it.

  17. You have an insightful conclusion on your thoughts how preserving traditional values and customs can be separate matters from one's practice of a religion. I don't see a conflict actually.

  18. oceanskies,
    I don't understand why Chinese who believe in Christianity must give up their traditions and customs. I may not like some of the traditions or customs, but I want to preserve my own roots.

    I don't spread superstitious beliefs, I write as what my elders told me.... I have my own views on them and let people form their own opinions.

    Why am I sinful?

    I'm glad you can see what I'm talking about.

  19. Interesting indeed. I am learning so much from your blog. It is always interesting finding out more about cultures that are different from your own. Nice article.

  20. It occured to me before what I'll have to do if I married a Christian. Guess I have the answer now.. :)

  21. Hi sailor,
    I love to share my Chinese culture. And with China coming up as the next economic powerhouse, it is good to learn more about the Chinese.

    I like to learn about other cultures too. Hope we can share with each other.

  22. the horny bitch,
    No matter who you marry, you mustn't forget your own Chinese roots.

    Even if you dye your hair and bleach your skin, eat western burgers and fries daily..... deep inside we have yellow skin and black hair.

    We have more than 5,000 years of history and if you study what the Chinese have achieved, you would be very proud. We are the descendants of Dragons. :)

  23. hey, first time bumping into you in blogexplosion !!

    yea, ghost month is here, better not stay out too late. Ghost on the round collecting souls, that's the folklore, isn't it?

  24. Thanks so much for stopping by and reminding me to come find out about the Hell money. Thanks for sharing part of your culture, it is always interesting to me.

  25. Hi allthingspurple,
    Some ghosts would try to find substitutes so they could be reborn. Have to be careful during this month.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  26. Hi sheeshintx,
    Thanks for checking back. I love to share my Chinese culture. i want to learn about yours too. :)

  27. Wah very interesting. I've always been facinated by this custom. I see pple burning lots of things during this time in SG and always wondered what was the significance.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  28. the western signature new? Keeping up with the times huh..:)

  29. Thanks so much for sharing your culture and customs eastcoast. What a wonderful way to honor your ancestors.

  30. Money can buy everything even to avoid hell ! lol !I find this a very nice use !some Christians are really stupid you can very well combine old traditions and christian religion ! The best example is the Christmas tree that had been not christian at all in the beginning !

  31. Hi ECL! I knew about burning the paper money but credit cards and cheques...WOW!!

    Happy weekend to u and Happy Birthday to Singapore too! :):):)

  32. Is that unique to Chinese? Hmm... I thought it's a bit morbid when figurines of servants or even mistresses are burnt as well...

  33. Great to learn more about your unique culture and tradition - thanks so much for sharing.

    Btw1: Talking about Chinese: I was the Olympics opening ceremony tonight - it was breath taking.

    Btw2: Hop over as soon as you can: You have to pick up your Award!

  34. the month is here. just helped my family the other day to burn the monies.

    btw good insight uve got here :)

  35. LadyJava,
    Even many Chinese in Singapore also don't bother to know more about this festival lah. they think it is all superstition. So shallow and the schools don't look into it too. ish.

  36. my bug life,
    hehe.... the King of Hell is also trying to keep up with times. I bet he has the latest laptop and gadgets! lol

  37. gran,
    Well, I would like my son and future generations to remember me and honour me. I think I've my unique style and way of thinking that my descendants can learn from. haha.....

  38. gattina,
    Money is omnipotent. haha.... we Chinese think of everything!

    God is love... so patient and tolerant but some of his followers try to twist his teachings to their whims and fancies. I don't believe all Christian people, including my pastor.

  39. Mariuca,
    I will show you the credit cards and cheque book and stuff that the Chinese 'send' to their ancestors in my post. hehe...

  40. ck,
    I believe it is unique to Chinese. I'm also pissed at the thought of 'burning a mistress' for the male ancestor. tsk tsk tsk....

  41. renny,
    You watched the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony too! Spectacular, isn't it?

    I'm going to claim my award now.

  42. quachee,
    Only give money? hehe....

    Thanks for stopping by.

  43. Religion is too sensitive and it can turn good friends to strangers ...

    A friend once told me that she is going to donate the money she found at the ATM machine to her church.

    How strange! .... I thought the right thing to do is to report to the bank that she found the money ??? It belongs to the owner who has carelessly left it at the ATM machine not the church...

    Sigh... life is strange!

  44. pinkhippo,
    I agree with you religion is a sensitive subject and I have so many arguments with Christians and my elders. :P

    How silly to donate money she found to the church! What if the person who lost the money needs it foran urgent use? I hope God helped the poor fella who lost the money.

  45. Wow, I can see your dilemma. I think the pressure would be too great, even as a Christian, to not make sure your ancestors are taken care of.

  46. I like. The Jade Emperor's signature is so stylo... he he

  47. "I'm a Christian and have been chided by some church elders and members for doing such 'sinful' and unchristian-like things."

    Good for you! Glad to see you taking a stand against rigid, closed-minded thinking and peer pressure!

    hansolo had said what i have in mind too :-)


  48. i'm not a Christian. Friends been convincing me that Jesus is the God. well,i too, believe that there is a God, but i'm not convinced yet that it's Jesus. and no matter which is the real God, i oso agree w ECL that "I doubt God is so narrow-minded and insensitive."

    so, ECL, during Qing Ming, do u hold the josstick too? or did ur serve tea to ur ancestor during ur wedding? i sometimes gets confused with what the christian perception on which is belief and which is cultural custom.

    Belinda.. (again hehe)

  49. 'burning a mistress' wauuuu!!! this is new! never heard of it before. tsk..tsk..tsk..

    the horny bitch, it's important u know what to do, but it's also very important to know if your hubby can accept it. what if your hubby dont want your prayer or very mad at you for praying to your God for him and "his" family? or your hubby tells your children not to believe in you cos u dont know the truth or dont want to accept the truth, or even tell your children that their mommy is practising cult? serious, i heard this from a very lovely and caring christian guy before.


  50. Now that you mentioned about it, we have not make our offerings yet :)

  51. Hi grandy,
    Long time no see! Glad to see you back. :)

    I don't know if there is an afterlife, but it's better to just do as told by my elders.

  52. big bright head,
    Yalor... I find him so hip and cool. haha...

  53. Hi Belinda,
    I became a Christian because I found peace in my belief. There was a lot of scoldings and pressure from my family when I told them I'm attending church services. Later my Mom converted, after years of being a Buddhist and visiting mediums!

    I try not keep my Chinese roots even after I become a Christian.

    At first I listened to my elders and pastor in church that I cannot pray to idols, eat the food offered to them..., cannot hold joss sticks cannot burn joss paper... etc.

    When I got married, my hubby held the joss sticks, he is a Buddhist. My church elders objected to the marriage. My hubby is a good man, I felt it too ridiculous that they forbade me to marrying someone because of his religion.

    I did served tea to the elders. I bowed and pay respects to my ancestors. My grandma was very happy that I didn't turn my back on my own heritage.

    I accompanied her to temples and helped her with her annual rituals to our ancestors.

    When my grandma died, I held joss sticks for her and burnt joss papers. I think she wanted me to do that. But she didn't force me when she was alive. I may have accepted another religion, a western one but I'm still a Chinese and I will never forget that.

    Christianity gives me the peace that I cannot find with Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) or Buddha. But my Chinese roots is something that cannot be discarded and cannot be changed or exchanged.

    I allow my son the freedom to choose his belief. He follows my hubby to prayers at temples and go to church with my mother. He is free to choose but he has to keep his Chinese roots. He has to observe our customs and traditions and moral values.

    We cannot change our colour.

  54. Meg,
    Some are very silly practices and should be ignored. I know about this 'giving a mistress' thingy but should not be encouraged.

    I oblige my parents to make them happy and to them, it's an assurance that they would not be forgotten after their death. I don't want to forget them too.

    To those singles who are in a dilemma as to whether they should pray to their ancestors or hold joss sticks, my view is that ancestors and God are two different things.

    If God is almighty and he is ever ready to forgive, he would understand. The elders and pastors are also human beings. They speak for themselves not God.

  55. paddy,
    Start shopping lor. You can see my other post for shopping tips. haha...

  56. Nice... i never heard this before and it really informed me about this hell money.

  57. Hi yashiro,
    It's a Chinese invention. haha.....

    The race with 5000 years of history!! Yeah!!

  58. We usually go for the 'fast food' package with everything in it.

    Then just throw everything into the bin and set fire. 5 min later.. everything settled :)

  59. paddy,
    Alamak! *smacks forehead*
    tsk tsk tsk.... 没有诚意!不可以这样的!

    Have to slowly burn one by one. Later your ancestors got indigestion!

  60. Forget to mention will throw a pack of 'antacid' to it also in case indigestion. Hahah!

  61. paddy,
    Not that type of indigestion! Also, you throw everything in ah, all will tumble onto your ancestors!

    Burn one by one, they catch one by one. You throw everything in, they have how many hands to catch ah!? Your ancestors didn't 成仙 (turn into immortals), right?

  62. I am a born buddhist and strangely my parents send me to a catholic school because my neigbhour told them that children from catholic schools are very well behaved ... I know that they meant good. :)

    However, I have a catholic friend who scolded the buddhisht for sending their child to catholic school because it take away the chance of her son from going to that catholic school she wanted.

    Why blame the buddhist?? It is god's will! All religion teaches us good.

    I truly agree to what you have said ... finding peace in a religion is important.

    I admire you for being so thoughtful even though you have accepted a more ang moh religion.

    Thank you for your sweetness! I am proud to know you! :)

  63. pinkhippo,
    All religion teaches people to be good. Humans are born faultless.

    Your Catholic friend probably doesn't deserve to have her son in a Catholic school, so God gave the place to a Buddhist. :P

    God (my God or your God) does things in His own amazing ways. I try not to question His wisdom. I'm human and also tend to slip and make mistakes too. I accept whatever punishment He has for me.

    I believe God knows us better and He would be fair come Judgement Day. That's why I don't care how humans judge me, I live for my family, country and God. I have peace.

    You are a great friend too. hope to meet you and have tea one day. *hugs*

  64. Hi ECL!

    Yes, in fact I saw your posts about the Ghost festival sometime back, and I still enjoy reading it, cos you have shared so much about it! haha, that hell bank note, I just sent to one Indian blogger friend who "threatened" to "haunt" me in my dream if I don't send money to him hahaha XP.