Written by Hjh Saemah Zulkefli
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 06:29
Bandar Seri Begawan - A Local Chinese man was disheartened to discover a $8,000 "paper money" note printed with the image of the Sultan Omar All Saifuddien mosque on one side and images of statues in a temple on the other.
The "Hell Bank Note" was discovered on the side of a road in a neighbouring country. The man handed over the paper money to the head of Mumong village, Awang Haji Yusof Dulamin for further action.
The Tiong Hua Buddhists believe that when a person dies, he would live in the after-life world and would need all the necessities such as money, house and car to live there. To send these necessities there, his relatives would burn paper models of the things they want to send.
-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
Hell bank notes are a special and more modern form of joss paper, an afterlife monetary paper offering used in traditional Chinese ancestor veneration, that can be printed in the style of western or Chinese paper bank notes. In Chinese cultures, the hell bank note has no special name or status, and simply regarded and referred to as yet another form of joss paper (冥幣, 紙錢, 金紙).
Regardless of the presentation, Hell Bank Notes are also known for their outrageously large denominations, ranging from $10,000, $100,000, $1,000,000 or even $500,000,000. In Singapore, it is extremely common to find 10 billion dollar banknotes in shops. On every bill, it features an image of the Jade Emperor, the presiding monarch of heaven in Taoism and his Western signature (Yu Wong, or Yuk Wong) countersigned by Yanluo, King of Hell (Yen Loo). On the back of each bill, it features a portrait of the bank of Hell.Contents.
The name "hell"
In Chinese mythology, the name of hell does not carry a negative connotation. The hell they refer to is Di Yu (trad. 地獄, simp. 地狱; lit. "underground hold/court"). Diyu is a maze of underground levels and chambers where souls are taken to atone for their earthly sins.
A popular story says that the word hell was introduced to China by Christian missionaries, who preached that all non-Christian Chinese people would "go to hell" when they die, and through a classic case of misinterpretation, it was believed that the word "Hell" was the proper English term for the Chinese afterlife, and hence the word was adopted.
Furthermore, it is believed in Chinese mythology that all who die will automatically enter the underworld of Diyu to be judged before either being sent to heaven, to be punished in the underworld, or to be reincarnated. As such, the word "Hell" usually appears on these notes. However, some printed notes omit the word "hell" and sometimes will replace it with "heaven" or "paradise". These particular bills are usually found in joss packs meant to be burned for Chinese deities. They have the same design as the above picture but with different colors.
The most well known and commonly sold Hell Note is the $10,000 note that is styled after the old United States Federal Reserve Note. The front side contains, apart from the portrait of the Jade Emperor, the seal of the Hell bank. The seal consists of a picture of the Hell bank itself. Many tiny, faint "Hell Bank Note"s are scattered on the back in yellow. These are sold in either packs of 50 to 150, and are wrapped in cellophane.
Stores that specialize in selling ritual items, such as the Gods Material Shops in Malaysia, also sell larger and elaborately decorated notes that have a larger denomination than the usual $10,000 note. Some bills do not portray the Jade Emperor, and will portray other famous figures in Chinese mythology, such as the Eight Immortals, the Buddha, Yama, or images of dragons. Some even portray famous people who are deceased, such as US President John F. Kennedy.
Consideration when using hell bank notes
Although in Western eyes hell bank notes may look like toys or superstitious items, there are considerations concerning the use of Hell Bank Notes that some Chinese people take seriously.
It is not advised to give a hell bank note to a living person as a gift (even as a joke); it is often considered as wishing the person's death, which is a grave insult. Hell bank notes are usually kept in places nobody can see (e.g. cupboards), as having these notes around in the house is considered bad luck.
When burning the notes, the notes are treated as real money: they are not casually tossed into the fire, but instead placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Alternatively in some customs, each bank note may be folded in a specific way before being tossed into the fire. This practice is an extension of the belief that burning real money brings bad luck.
This is consider a very offensive act, using a mosque in Hell banknotes in Chinese offering to the death people. Some other country don't even allowed their banknote to be produced in any form. Do you have any similar story as this Brunei story? I don't know much about Hell banknotes before but reading this story make me realize some Hell banknotes do have a beautiful design. Do you collect any Hell banknotes? Do you have any of this Hell banknotes in your possession?