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1999mar04. Hell Notes Notes.

What the hell are Hell Notes?, you ask. I will tell you. I will tell you what the Hell Notes are.

There are several denominations of Hell Notes, from a one-dollar bill up to (at least) the one billion dollar note. The Chinese create this money to be used in the afterlife. The Chinese afterlife is pretty much the same as here, you work (that IS hell!), you have to spend money and provide for your family, etc. The hell money is transported from this world to the afterlife by burning it. The money is traditionally burned after a funeral, or during the Chinese new year. It doesn't stop at money - the place where I picked these bills up also had Hell shoes - shoes to burn, made out of cardboard, Hell fans, Hell VCRs, Hell toothpaste, etc. You will also see (scaled-down) Hell cars and houses.

The tradition itself is frowned upon by the Chinese government (you know, if I had a Hell Dollar for every time I saw that phrase...). In the interest of the environment, they suggest burning one blank check for the deceased. There are also Hell Credit Cards issued by at least one bank in Taiwan.

The reason they're called Hell notes is rather funny - it comes from Christian missionaries visiting China in the 19th century, happily explaining to the Chinese where they'd all end up. I love this attitude on part of the Chinese - "call it whatever you want, we're still going to keep our traditions and beliefs."

You should be paying one dollar, at most, for a package of twenty or more notes of a single denomination. The most I paid for a single denomation was $2.50, and that got me ten packages of 70 notes each (700 notes total) of the $10,000 variety. The first two stores below are the main Hell merchandise shops in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Supernatural Exquisite / 714 Jackson St / San Francisco CA
Went Worth Trading Co / 737 Jackson St / San Francisco CA
New Sunny Land & Co. ($5000) / 538 Clement Street / San Francisco CA