Ducking and covering

This is as much a plea for input as it is a general discussion of some art that’s coming to a simmer on the back burner.

A few months ago a friend, knowing what a paper addict I am, gave me a thick little packet of beautiful papers she bought on a trip. The paper may be made of bamboo. A pale, creamy yellow stamped with bright color–some of them stamped with a square of smooth silver foil, others with orange ink and gold foil that’s been embossed with rectangular shapes.

Of course, some of you are saying, “Oh, I already know what that is–it’s joss paper.”

And indeed it is. Joss paper, also known as spirit money, shade money, ghost money, dark paper, is burnt as part of funeral observances in China and some other Asian countries.  As such, it’s treated with some reverence, and many customs have grown up around when it’s okay to use it and when it’s not. It’s traditionally burned following a death to make sure that the deceased will have good things in the afterlife–kind of like opening a debit account for them in the next world. In facdt, according to Wikipedia, in some places the dead are gifted with hell bank notes (imagine Monopoly money decorated with gods, mythical beings, and emperors)  and even paper replicas of credit cards.

This is all okay.

What’s not okay, apparently, is giving such currency to living people, joking about it, or leaving it laying about your house where people could see and be offended by it.

I have a project in mind that would make use of this paper, what I believe is a respectful use. But I don’t want to offend anyone through my ignorance.  I’ve asked around, I’ve looked at places on line where various uses of this paper is discussed, and I’ve brought it up with friends of Asian ancestry. A few say, “Oh,you don’t want to do that,” but most say, “As long as you aren’t being openly offensive, it’s not really a problem.”

So, what say you? Any thoughts on this? Please don’t throw rocks at me–I mean well.

To get you started, here’s a bit of working with this paper I’ve done so far:

I’d love more information–can you help?


One response to “Ducking and covering

  1. I’ve used joss paper as a background for acrylic paintings. The texture and the color blocks are wonderful. I’ve shown them to several asian friends who have no problems and think it wonderful use. They aren’t very “traditional” though, so their opinions may be at wide odds with others in the community. I think if what you are doing is tasteful and respectful, using the beauty of the thing in a different way you won’t offend many.

    Someone will not like it, but then someone will not like everything.

    Good luck and let us see the results.

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