Hell Bank Notes
Posted by Remo Giuffré on
Money to spend in the afterworld
The word "Hell" was introduced to China by Christian missionaries who claimed that non-converted Chinese were all "going to Hell" when they died. The Chinese, thinking (not unreasonably) that "Hell" was the proper English term for the afterlife, adopted the word.
Hence the name: Hell Bank Note
Here's the idea: when people die, their spirits go to an afterlife where they continue to live on, doing many of the same sorts of things they did while alive: eating, drinking, sleeping, playing with the kids, and so on …
In order to ensure that the deceased have access to lots of good things in the afterlife, their relatives give them gifts; and one of the very best things to give a freshly dead person is a stack of high-denomination Hell Bank Notes ... money to spend in the afterworld.
The front of any Hell Bank Note features the Lord of Hell, a middle-aged guy with a beard who wears a flat-topped hat from which strings of beads dangle. On the back is an image of the actual Bank of Hell.
Note finally that giving someone who is alive Hell Bank Notes is considered to be a great insult. In fact, in some areas it is considered a curse calling on the King of Hell to collect that personage. So, not a good gift for an ageing relative.
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A clever alternative to burning effigies!
In Hong Kong, Hell Bank Notes are traditionally burned as an offering during the Hungry Ghost Festival, usually occurring in August. In 2019, as the Hungry Ghost Festival fell at the height of Hong Kong’s anti-government protests, protesters designed new Hell Bank Notes depicting the faces of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other unpopular government leaders as the Lords of Hell. You can see the designs and read the backstory here: https://medium.com/@antd/hungry-ghosts-in-hong-kong-b83737ac9cea
Great gift idea! With the salutation “You’ll need these where you’re going…”