16th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest
Luxury beyond Death (Vietnamese Paper Offerings)
The series portrays the paper offerings that are burnt for the deceased on their death anniversary in Vietnam. This funeral custom is based on the ideology of continuing life with materialistic desire in the afterlife. Similar rituals are widely practised in Asia including China, Taiwan and Singapore.
Besides Joss Paper, which is the most popular offering and the official currency for the afterlife, believers of traditional Vietnamese religion burn various kinds of paper effigies, which portray all necessities that a typical middle-class earner would own: houses, perfume, credit cards, watches and clothes that are often superimposed with luxury brand names. The goods are transferred to the afterlife in the smoke and are received by the dead.
Once the souls have left the body, they become reincarnated in the underworld. They need their home comforts and luxury items as much as the living and some like to wear Rolex and Nike.
This funeral practice provokes the following questions:
– Ghost money lacks purpose to the living, but the billions of dollars that we generate also become inaccessible to us in death — then what’s truly valuable in life?
– If there is a life after life, how do we know that the life we are leading is not an afterlife itself of a different world?
© Kyoko Takemura.
All rights reserved.
||Oct. 13, 2018, 2:16 a.m.
||Canon EOS 60D