April 17th, 2017, Taichung, Taiwan.
I am here in Taichung undertaking a mini residency researching ghost culture in Taiwan.
Today I went to purchase some ghost money for my installation, The GHost Formula, at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMoFA)
Ghost money or joss Paper generally comes in the form of wads of rectangular currency shaped sheets, decorated with calligraphy or iconography and sometimes with gold or silver seals. It is also commonly available as paper goods – paper replications of everyday items – from shoes to iPads. Paper goods can be mass produced or can be intricate hand made commissions – the latter is a much respected craft often running in families. It is possible to commission miniature paper models of whole rooms or buildings.
Ghost money is used as an exchange system with ghosts of ancestors and others and with the spirits of deities. The ghost money may be added to family shrines or at temples and is an important element in many different public ceremonies and private rituals. Eventually, the Ghost Money is burnt as an offering to the ghost or the god(s). Although the burning of ghost money is less frequent now due to concerns over its environmental impact.
My guides and translators today are Rita and Mr. Cheng from NTMoFA. We take a taxi someway to the outskirts of town to visit the warehouse of Mr. G.
Mr. G supplies ghost money across the whole of Taiwan and his warehouse is certainly well stocked. Boxes of various types of Ghost Money are stacked up on two floors and in several showroom spaces.
We tour this extensive space with Mr. G explaining. I am anxious to find the appropriate ghost money for my installation. There is so much choice and it is all rather wonderful, but it is important to find the Ghost Money that will have universal meaning in the context of an art exhibit. I am grateful to my expert guides Rita and Mr. Cheng for their advice on this.
Finally, I select some boxes of traditional ghost money, decorated with calligraphy that indicates the type money. I am informed that this money is appropriate to by given to both ancestral ghosts and anonymous ghosts. I also buy some square sheets, decorated with lotus and swastika motifs. These will be folded to make lotus flowers. You can read more about this in my next blog post…