If you had to choose something to take with you to the afterlife, what would it be? Money, gold, music, pictures, jewels, your pet dog, your laptop?
The Emperor Qin, who is credited with unifying China into the one massive country it is today, was so obsessed with his own afterlife that he created the now-famous Terracotta Army, in Xi’an, with an army of over 8,000 life-sized soldiers, plus horses, servants, and offerings, and then buried it all underground until it was discovered by accident just a few decades ago, skyrocketing Xi’an into a world-famous tourist attraction. It’s one of the most incredible and bizarre things I’ve ever seen.
But being buried with important goods for the afterlife is nothing new, which is why tombs in Egypt (not that I’ve been yet) are full of gold, riches, servants, children, concubines, horses, bottles of wine, and everything else a royal king would need or desire. From South America to the Middle East, everyone wants to know that they, and their loved ones, will be okay after their death.
Most people today, of course, don’t have the tools or resources to build themselves a terracotta army or bury their riches in a pyramid. But the Chinese today have a very interesting, and quirky, way of honoring their dead — they burn paper effigies of the things that their loved ones either enjoyed in life, or never got to achieve.
There are a number of shops just down the road from me which sell paper offerings that people can burn in the belief that the smoke will rise up to the heavens and be delivered to your loved ones. I find it incredibly fascinating to see what these shops sell, paper offerings of any and everything you can imagine that people enjoy in life, and may want or need after death in the spirit world.
For example, say your husband just died, and he was a big fan of horse racing. Then you can buy him this:
Or maybe your dream was to one day have a big house with lots of space and lots of help? But in Hong Kong of course that kind of lifestyle IS a dream, so perhaps for their loved ones they offer up a big mansion, complete with a maid, an armed security guard (to keep you safe), a patio set, and even a Hummer! Your lives dreams finally realized after death.
Smokers can barely survive a 5-hour flight without a smoke — can you imagine going through an entire afterlife without cigarettes? Never fear! Your loved ones will never be without a nicotine fix. Or an iPad, for that matter. Or an electric shaver. Yes, you have to look good, even when you’ve carried over.
Of course, one must put their best foot forward, so for the fashion conscious or shopaholics, you can get a genuine imitation Louis Vuitton bag, and a pair of shoes…
This one is my favorite — BEER!!! Yup, I definitely would hope my family would burn an effigy of beer for me because I sure do enjoy it now.
I thought this one was particularly cool — a big paper massage chair!
Regardless of what your loved one needs or wants, or enjoyed in this life and will surely want in the next life, or perhaps had dreams of achieving but never quite got there, you can find it all in these effigy shops. You burn your offerings in these metal bins, and the smoke travels up to the heavens, and hopefully to your loved ones. I think it’s quite nice, actually. A very personal touch to the sad but real business of death.