Last week is the Spring Memorial Holiday (清明节）for Chinese, it is the time for people to go sweep the tombs of ancestors and loved ones, and pay them some tribute. We Chinese believe that you can send gifts to the dead by burning the gifts in front of their tombs. Popular tributes include fake money (from fake gold and silver ingot made with foil, to US dollar bill in which the face of Franklin is replaced by that of the Chinese god in charge of Heaven), paper houses and paper servants, the luxurious liquor Moutai and other things Chinese people crave in this world.
Heaven Money and Alcohol. Photos by Tian Ma Hua Ti.
But this year the trend is you have to give your ancestors iPads and iPhones if you don’t want them to be looked down upon in Heaven.
Burning Paper iPhone on Qing Ming Festival
Burning Paper iPad on Qing Ming Festival
No kidding, people are buying iPads and iPhones made with paper to burn in front of tombs. Even I myself considered buying two iPads for my grandparents, but they have never even used computers when they were alive, so I was worried that they wouldn’t know how to use them, and they wouldn’t be able to communicate with me via iPad anyway given the ever extending reach of the Great Firewall of China. Some of my friends are also skeptical of this trend. One was worried that his icon Steve Jobs might be bothered by too many Chinese asking him for pirated software. Another was concerned that the plugs we have in this world might not fit the outlets in Heaven.
Anyway, I am again touched by the creativity Chinese people have in reinventing rituals and our unshaken belief in materialism.