Call you when I get to heaven

26Dec07

I’m no stranger to incense burning. I’m not talking about the smelly hippie kind but the tear duct assaulting Chinese temple kind. Traditional Chinese folks go to great lengths to show their utmost devotion and pay their deepest respect to their deities and ancestors. It’s not just incense they burn, there’s also “heaven money” in the form of either paper gold bricks or some artist’s interpretation of the running currency in the afterlife. Once burned, this symbolic paper currency is said to be transferred to gods, ghosts or ancestors and transformed into something they can use in that other world. That’s all fine and dandy. I mean in that same way, I do appreciate and understand the symbolic value in that cracker that is “the body of Christ”.

When my great-grandmother passed away a few years back, my uncle burned this for her:
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Mahjong was her favorite thing in this world so how could it possibly be heaven if it were mahjong-less? Throw in 3 friends too so she’ll always have enough heads for a game. Kind of creepy eh? There are entire businesses built upon selling paper versions of earthly “material things” for the deceased. I’ve seen Rolls Royces, flat screen plasma TVs, measured to fit Armani suits, Rolexes, you name it. All that is old-skool. Leave it to a (creative?) company called Skea in Taiwan to come up with this: A paper Iphone clone called the Sphone. The website boasts the Sphone is complete with a 3-megapixel camera, infrared, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a memory card slot and polyphonic ring tones (use a little imagination why don’t you!). If you were to spend US$120 buying this for your teched out dead friend, don’t forget to burn him an extra power cord cause you know those things always break. Burn him one of those geniuses from the Mac store too just in case he has any questions or needs a firmware update.
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For the ladies, Skea sells paper makeup compacts, high-end skincare products and acrylic nails. There are even entire houses and vacation homes made of paper you have to see to believe. As an educated consumer, you might want to ask: how does this work? How do you make sure the offerings really get to the intended recipient? How come some objects are life-size and some are not? Do they prefer objects or the money to buy whatever they want there (Acrylic nails maybe totally out of fashion north of the Pearly Gates)? But I suppose if you are going to burn anything in the first place, then you should have a little faith and leave the questions behind.

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