Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Er-nai (二奶) for the dead

In the past, people burned paper-made clothes, houses, cars, ..., for the dead. Now you can buy (and burn) designer shirts, shoes, sneakers, handbags, jewelry, ..., mobile phones, check books, air conditioners, ...

I heard smaller items such as shirts cost 10 - 20 dollars a piece.

For a long time, I thought this practice was an invention of the practical Chinese. Recently, however, I read from the book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by the respected Sogyol Rinpoche that this is truly part of Buddhist beliefs. He wrote that when a person is dead and waiting to be re-incarnated, the person has a mostly virtual body and may feel certain needs, such as being hungry. The body can feed on things offered through burning. But these items must be offered in the person’s name. I did notice my relatives writing the name of the dead relatives on the items just before they burned those items.

I read that in Wuhan, for 50 yuan, one can buy a marriage certificate with a well-known film star for a dead relative. Or an er nai (mistress, 二奶) - to be more accurate, a paper-made doll with a label which says “ 二奶”. Amazing, isn’t it?


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