Using Fire to Communicate With the Dead

In traditional Chinese culture, life doesn’t necessarily end after you die. You simply move onto an afterlife that’s best experienced with the same creature comforts and cash it takes to make your way through the mortal plane. (The Chinese also believe that money can be used to buy your way out of hell, provided the life you lived stranded you there.) But because you can’t exactly bring stacks of cash with you when you cross over to the other side — to say nothing of simple pleasures such as a bucket of KFC — you need your relatives to get them to you. That’s where Au Yueng Ping Chi comes in. He’s one of many “Paper Offerings Makers” in Hong Kong. His job? To fashion everything from money to Mercedes from highly flammable bamboo or rice paper that your next of kin can burn as a sort of Amazon Prime for the dead. On a recent trip to Asia, MEL Films spent an afternoon with Au Yueng to see exactly what answers lie in those flickering flames and gusts of smoke.

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