Ghost Money

An imaginary alternative
to an ancestral ritual.

Layout Design, Print, small fires


In Vietnam, it’s common to burn fake ‘ghost’ money (also called joss paper or votive paper) to offer to ancestors in the afterlife. This practice is widespread, and even performed by secular people.

Recently, though? Vietnamese people have been burning more than just paper money. Some burn paper iPhones, paper cars, and paper Gucci slides.  There’s an interesting connection to consumerism: it’s curious that you’d give material objects to ancestors in an immaterial world.


I reframed this practice by asking the question:

“What if, through the act of burning, we sent different things to our ancestors? Things more abstract than consumer goods?”

In response, I redesigned the ghost money to represent things I imagine I would want for eternity—forehead kisses from my grandma, comfortable silence over tea, a sense of belonging.

“Please send me these when I am gone.”

—Hao Cao, my auntie