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ming bi (冥币)

Chinese. ‘Obscure currency’ or ‘hell money’. Name for a special form of joss paper called jin zhi and takes the form of hell banknotes, a currency for afterlife usage. There are banknotes with real money value (fig.), whilst others are of a very large denomination. All show a portrait of Yu Huang, the Jade Emperor and the seal of the Bank of Hell (fig.). There are banknotes of both foreign and Thai (fig.) allusion. They are sold in stacks of around 30 bank notes and the backside of one -the last- bank note in each stack will be of a different colour, indicating it is the last banknote of the stack. They are offered by the relatives of the deceased by burning (fig.) them in specially built joss ovens (fig.) during certain traditional Chinese ceremonies, such as funerals, to escape punishment or as as a tribute to Yama, the god of hell. They are often burned together with other paper items, such as replicas of material goods, in order to ensure that their spirits have all things necessary. Hell banknotes are taken seriously and are for ceremonial burning only. They should never be kept around in the house as that is considered bad luck and one should never give a hell banknote to a living person, not even as a joke, as it is considered as wishing that person's death, a grave insult. Before burning hell money the person offering it will first make a vow called athitahn, in which the hands are brought together above the head, making a wai. In Thai transcribed as meng pih. Sometimes called ghost money and in Thai known as baenk gong de.