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Malaysian Hell bank notes as money?

Hell bank notes, which are paper money resembling the real stuff, are burned at the graves of ancestors to ensure the deceased doesn’t lack for money during the coming year. (By Vmenkov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4862200)

Virtual coins are becoming of increasing concern among those who are aware of their pitfalls as well as their benefits.

A shopping mall in Penang, Malaysia, recently began facilitating payments being able to be made using virtual coins, raising a lot of eyebrows in the process. The concept is tied to an investment scheme that claims to return 24 percent annually while trading these coins.

Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Dr. Wee Ka Siong is also a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. On May 8, Siong gave a talk on the gradual adoption of cashless transactions at the Malaysian Champions Club.

In his talk, Siong defended Malaysia’s ringgit as the only legal tender currency in the country, adding: “The only other currency we can use is the one commonly seen during Cheng Beng – Hell notes. We burn it for our ancestors.”

Hell bank notes as money? Cheng Beng or Tomb Sweeping Day is regarded as the most important custom in the Qingming Festival. On that day Malaysians pay respect to their ancestors by cleaning their tombs. The ceremony is taken seriously, with weeds being removed and fresh soil added to indicate to the spirits of the deceased that their descendants still care. Participants even sacrifice the deceased’s favorite food and wine. Hell bank notes are paper money resembling the real stuff that is burned to ensure the deceased doesn’t lack for money during the coming year.

Hell, in the Malaysian tradition, is the underworld where all souls are expected to go. Hell bank notes may mimic legal tender, but many times they depict historic and contemporary political figures or are printed in hyper-inflationary denominations such as $1 billion. Malaysia’s legal tender currency system includes 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-sen coins and bank notes in denominations as high as 100 ringgit. A 100-ringgit bank note is worth about $23 US.

A 2016 Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes survey indicated an eight percent increase to 74 percent of Malaysians now prefer electronic to cash payments. The same survey indicated 64 percent found debit and credit cards to be safer than cash. The use or burning of Hell notes was not included in the survey, nor was virtual money.

In an April 11 article published in The Economist, Yeah Kim Leng, Sunway University Business School professor, said, “There are still concerns about cyber security. But mobile payment is slowly gaining control as people feel secure, compared to other modes of payments at the moment,” adding, “The change is inevitable as rural areas shrink and more companies offer e-payment facilities.”

Leng noted that 70 percent of Malaysians now live in an urban environment.

“This will catch on fast now with the Wave method of payment if more people are convinced of the security,” said Leng. “People are always looking at easier ways to do transactions.”

While Leng and Siong see no future for virtual coins, it would appear not only the ringgit but the Cheng Beng are here to stay.


This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.


More Collecting Resources

• Order the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, General Issues to learn about circulating paper money from 14th century China to the mid 20th century.

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