Of gold engravings

April is not just the cruellest month but the season of paying respects to our ancestors in Chinese tradition. Sometimes I feel so submerged in a cosmopolitan environment that my Chineseness is no longer salient in my mind. Yesterday was not one of those days.

My family and I go to my grandparents’ grave site every year to honour them. The Chinese offer food, drinks, joss sticks, burn spirit money and even paper manifestations of houses, cars and laptops to their family. It is the belief that we spend our afterlife in the underworld as ghosts/spirits, and there are still human needs there. It’s interesting, because our concept of death has always been informed by our perception of life. At the site, I saw someone burning a paper version of a Louis Vuitton bag. Do the souls of our ancestors really have the urge for materialism? Will their fellow souls be impressed by their sporting a shiny new bag? 

My mother turned to me and she said, “Just get me a laptop the next time.” 

The idea that one cannot live and even die without a laptop is hilarious and fascinating. In truth, rituals are more for the living than for the dead. 

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