Cost of living in spirit world on the rise

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2012, 12:00am


The stronger yuan is contributing to hyperinflation in the ghost world this Ching Ming festival.

At the Chun Sing Hong paper-offering shop in Sai Ying Pun, where many of the city's veritable department stores for the departed are located, one of hottest new items on sale this year is 100 yuan 'hell banknotes' - selling for HK$4 for packets of eight - to be burnt as offerings for the dead.

And in a sign of the times, the largest denomination for more generic hell banknotes has risen to 1 trillion dollars, a 10-fold leap from last year's 100 billion dollar notes.

'More people like to burn paper money instead of clothes or other luxuries for their ancestors,' said Ng Ting-kwai, who runs the Ming Sang Hong offering shop in Western district. 'They can buy anything with money and it saves the trouble of choosing clothes for them.' She estimated that sales of paper money had increased by 30 per cent from last year.

Paper gold bars were also a big hit this year, as they had been larger and, naturally, sold for double last year's price.

Inflation is also hitting the real world, and people are forking out more to tend to the needs of the dead - prices for paper offerings have risen by more than 10 per cent, according to shop owners.

Another popular item this year is a paper massage armchair, about 25cm tall, selling for HK$88. 'People like it because they're usually buying it for elderly deceased and they want them to be comfortable,' Ng said.

Paper electronic gadgets are still popular choices for the younger departed, as they are among the living. Tin Chau Hong in Wan Chai has stocked a paper tablet computer called 'Pad2' as well as a paper smart 'Phone4' complete with USB cables and chargers, for between HK$50 and HK$60.

Though the facsimiles are much cheaper than the real gadgets, paper food sells for much the same price as the real thing. At Tin Chau Hong, a McDonald's combo sells for HK$28, and a plate of 'fried beef noodles' costs HK$18.