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Friday, February 23, 2024

F³ It's Only Money 53

             Mei, despite only claiming to learn about Chinese folklore to bolster sales, was good at researching and relating the stories. I had a basic grasp on some of the stories, but Eastern mythology was just fundamentally different from Western, and it took a while to wrap my brain around it. Literally anything, and most did, could have a spirit and required a specific ritual to deal with it. So when Mei pulled up funeral traditions and the burning of joss money, all I could really do is shrugged. She had to connect the dots for me.

            “It’s like paying the debt of people in the afterlife,” she said.

                        I was familiar with the concept of Catholic indulgences, literally buying your soul out of hell and into limbo, but there was a wrinkle in this for me. “By burning the money?”

            “It’s not real money, it’s . . . it’s incense money, specifically made for this.”

            “Okay, I guess, but how does that connect to this?” I pointed to the figure.

            “Well, Jade Girl and Golden Boy carvings are meant to watch over people, and in some stories they’re even servants.”

            “Right, we covered that. The whole ‘take it with you’ idea.”

            “Yeah, but see, here’s the thing.” She pointed at a picture on the monitor.

            It was an example of the joss money, but whereas others showed a picture of a man or were decorated with metallic foil in gold or silver, this was copper, but stamped with black ink in the shapes of common household objects: food, clothing, tools, etc. Underneath the picture was an explanation that these were the daily essentials of the afterlife.

            “So Jade Girl could also be one of these ‘daily essentials’?” I scrolled up, looking over the other examples of the money, scanning over the captions.

            “Ah ha!” Mei shouted.

            I hadn’t noticed, but she had ducked under the counter and now stood up with a cellophane brick. Carefully slitting the end with a box cutter, she slid out a short stack of paper from the brick. Immediately, I could smell the incense.

            “Is that it?”

            “Uh huh. Gold, silver, and copper joss paper.” She pulled over the cookie sheet that caught the ashes from the incense sticks. Moving the incense burner off and transplanting the joss money and the figurine, she pulled a lighter from her pocket. “Ready to do this?”

            “Um,” I said. “If this works, that statue is going to turn into a human woman on your counter.”

            “Good point. Let’s move it to the floor.”

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