- Hell bank note
Hell bank notes are a special and more modern form of
joss paper, an afterlifemonetary paper offering used in traditional Chinese ancestor veneration, that can be printed in the style of western or Chinese paper bank notes. In Chinese cultures, the hell bank note has no special name or status, and simply regarded and referred to as yet another form of joss paper (冥幣, 紙錢, 金紙).
Regardless of the presentation, Hell Bank Notes are also known for their outrageously large denominations, ranging from $10,000, $100,000, $1,000,000 or even $500,000,000. In Singapore, it is extremely common to find 10 billion dollar banknotes in shops. On every bill, it features an image of the
Jade Emperor, the presiding monarch of heaven in Taoismand his Western signature ("Yu Wong", or "Yuk Wong") countersigned by Yanluo, King of Hell ("Yen Loo"). On the back of each bill, it features a portrait of the bank of Hell.
The name "hell"
In Chinese mythology, the name of "hell" does not carry a negative connotation. The hell they refer to is "Di Yu" (trad. 地獄, simp. 地狱; lit. "underground hold/court"). Diyu is a maze of underground levels and chambers where souls are taken to atone for their earthly sins. [ [http://www.joelscoins.com/catpm.htm World Paper Money ] ]
A popular story says that the word "hell" was introduced to China by
Christian missionaries, who preached that all non-Christian Chinese people would "go to hell" when they die, and through a classic case of misinterpretation, it was believed that the word "Hell" was the proper English term for the Chinese afterlife, and hence the word was adopted. [http://www.bigwhiteguy.com/baskets/hell.php]
Furthermore, it is believed in
Chinese mythologythat all who die will automatically enter the underworld of Diyu to be judged before either being sent to heaven, to be punished in the underworld, or to be reincarnated. As such, the word "Hell" usually appears on these notes. However, some printed notes omit the word "hell" and sometimes will replace it with "heaven" or "paradise". These particular bills are usually found in joss packs meant to be burned for Chinese deities. They have the same design as the above picture but with different colors.
The most well known and commonly sold Hell Note is the $10,000 note that is styled after the old United States
Federal Reserve Note. The front side contains, apart from the portrait of the Jade Emperor, the seal of the Hell bank. The seal consists of a picture of the Hell bank itself. Many tiny, faint "Hell Bank Note"s are scattered on the back in yellow. These are sold in either packs of 50 to 150, and are wrapped in cellophane.
Stores that specialize in selling ritual items, such as the
Gods Material Shops in Malaysia, also sell larger and elaborately decorated notes that have a larger denomination than the usual $10,000 note. Some bills do not portray the Jade Emperor, and will portray other famous figures in Chinese mythology, such as the Eight Immortals, the Buddha, Yama, or images of dragons. Some even portray famous people who are deceased, such as US President John F. Kennedy(as noted below).
Consideration when using hell bank notes
Although in Western eyes hell bank notes may look like
toys or superstitious items, there are considerations concerning the use of Hell Bank Notes that some Chinese people take seriously.
It is not advised to give a hell bank note to a living person as a gift (even as a joke); it is often considered as wishing the person's death, which is a grave insult. Hell bank notes are usually kept places nobody can see (e.g. cupboards), as having these notes around in the house is considered bad luck.
When burning the notes, the notes are treated as real money: they are not casually tossed into the fire, but instead placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Alternatively in some customs, each bank note may be folded in a specific way before being tossed into the fire. This practice is an extension of the belief that burning real money brings bad luck.
Gods material shop
* [http://www.bigwhiteguy.com/baskets/hell.php Hell Money] - on BigWhiteGuy.com
* [http://www.luckymojo.com/hellmoney.html Hell Money] - on LuckyMojo.com
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.