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You are what you burn

Publication: 
The New York Times
Release Date: 
April 27, 2015

Vault-loads of spirit money are burned throughout China and in Chinese neighborhoods worldwide, at funerals, on the birthdays of the dead and during the grave-sweeping holidays. The selection of burnable funeral goods is especially vast in Hong Kong. In Sheung Wan, a neighborhood just minutes from the Central business district, one of the world’s biggest financial centers, a strip of specialized mini-supermarkets for the departed runs along a winding road, with purveyors selling traditional medicine, dried scallops and birds’ nests. Hanging from the stores’ awnings or standing on the sidewalk, there are watches, phones, laptops, suits, plane tickets, credit cards, McDonald’s Happy Meals, massage chairs, cars, houses, pet dogs, human servants — all of paper and cardboard. Burnable Apple Watches were for sale here months before the real thing.