A new tradition in China: honoring the dead with paper iPads, iPhones

Paper replicas of iPads and iPhones with other gadgets for sale for the Chinese Qingming festival at a prayer supplies shop near Kuala Lumpur. Chinese people go to cemeteries during the festival to honor the dead with prayers, food, tea, wine and paper replicas of flashy cars, Louis Vuitton bags, and other bling for the ancestors to enjoy in the afterlife. Reuters/2011.

April 4 in China marks Tomb Sweeping Day (Qingming Festival), an ancient cultural tradition in which families honor their ancestors by visiting their tombs and leaving offerings of food. Not unlike Día de Los Muertos, really.

Brian Ashcraft writes at Kotaku:

Paper replicas depict items that can be used in the afterlife, such as clothing, money, and cars, are burned. Over the years, this tradition has evolved with the times as evident by a recent must-have paper replica: the iPad.

Yup. More in China Daily, Shanghai Daily (with a photo gallery), The Telegraph.

The words "iiPad" and "888 GB" are displayed on a paper replica of an Apple iPad on sale for the Chinese Qingming festival, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The number 888 is auspicious in Chinese culture. Reuters/2011.


  1. Nothing says “I respect the dead” like mockups.  I fully realize this is a cultural thing, but I’m happy to admit that I don’t get it.

    On the other hand, I’d like to be composted.

  2. April Fools!  …. oh wait a minute. April 3rd? You mean this is for real? An afterlife that requires a Mercedes and Louis Vuitton bag? Seems you can take it with you when you go – in China at least

    1. Well sort of. Jobs got kicked out of his CEO position by Life Inc. He’s still trying to negotiate his way around in the afterlife and he hasn’t gotten the deal together to outsource production, although certain entities are tendering offers for production of the new AfterPad. No decision has been made though as a faint odor of fire&brimstone on the AfterPad could prove to be a key quality issue in HeAven Inc.

  3. I like to imagine somebody’s great great great grandpa trying to figure out how to use one of those iiPads in the afterlife. If grandparents now have trouble with computers, imagine how the ghost of someone from before the 20th century might react.

  4. Why use paper when the new iPad has a self-immolation feature? There’s an app for that! 

  5. All religious ritual is equally strange to me. How is this any more odd than annually laying cut flowers where the body of a loved one is buried?

    1. I agree. 

      Funerals, too. Here, someone you love died, have some flowers!  That will die, too.  That’ll make them feel better!

    2. Religious ritual?  Flowers have nothing to do with religion.  They were originally to cover up the smell of the corpse.

  6. Not any different from burying them with any other kind of possession I suppose, which is a common practice in most cultures.  At least this way you’re not throwing something valuable away, but the thought’s still there.


  7. With my luck, I’ll die two days before the iPad 4 comes out, and my family will leave me with a paper iPad 3.  Then, there I’ll be, in the afterlife, having to stare at the other recently-dead enjoying their spanking-new iPad 4’s, while I’m stuck with my iPad 3 for all eternity.

    1.  I also like “designed by Orange”. Makes me imagine the afterlife as a sort of Bizarro world.

  8. The Chinese have always kept up with the times with these things.  Originally you just burned “Ghost Money” (which said “Bank Of Hell” on the back!) but then they moved on to replica stocks and bonds.  I suppose these days there are derivatives too – but probably no life insurance.

  9. I forgot about this custom.  I’m going to jump ahead of the timeline and send my ancestors a paper replica of the Death Star. 

  10. See, this is why I love BoingBoing so much. Even when we’re mocking cultural practices we don’t understand (in the comments section, not in the article), we’re mocking very gently, with a “this doesn’t make much sense, but then what human behaviors do, really?” kind of vibe.

  11. My friend’s family are from Hong Kong and for his Grandfather’s funeral they burnt a mercedes complete with chauffeur (because he couldn’t drive) and a bridge to help him get over any obstacles.

  12. Being from Taiwan and Chinese decent, these items are not actually left on the grave sites. They are burned in a large metal crucible along with paper money, houses, cars, etc. It is an offering and paying of respect – to ensure your loved ones have enough food, shelter, etc.

    1. Yes, and might I add some more detail to help westerners understand this tradition:
      The Chinese afterlife is not like the Christian heaven, it is not all fluffy white clouds and eternal happiness. It’s essentially another world where money also exists. Chinese burn paper money for their ancestors so their ancestors can use this in the afterlife. And now they burn loads of other things made from paper, like the ipads here, as well: cars, cd players, houses. There are shops which specialise in making these paper objects.

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