Traditionally, many Chinese people believe that when a person dies they leave with no earthly possessions. To provide for them in the afterlife, relatives burn paper versions of personal objects. Today these fascinating paper objects, which are either mass-produced or custom-made, can feature such mundane household items as microwaves, hairdryers, ipods and fast food meals.
This age old practice dates from the burying of grave goods in Neolithic times. Over centuries, real objects were replaced by bronze or terracotta replicas, which in turn were later replaced by paper money in the form of gold or silver ingots. More contemporary varieties are made of Joss paper. There are now even burial websites which allow descendants to select digital items for online burning.
Kurt Tong’s rich, highly-coloured photographs document the recent development of this tradition. They reflect a continued belief in life after death in China, and the influence of an increasingly westernized society. The photographs are seen alongside Compton Verney’s historic Chinese bronzes – themselves once used for ceremonial offerings to the dead.
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