I read about this in a crime fiction novel. It was set partly in Hong Kong. It was written by Michel Connelly who was one of my favorite authors until this book. Yes, it was him because the detective Harry Bosch turned into something and someone I just did not like, something that Connelly had avoided in the many stories of Bosch that made him my favorite detective. He turned into a gun-slinging, loud American. It seemed to me that Connelly had avoided this ugliness and easiness with deliberation, creating a character who was multifaceted but who saw his own world and actions in black and whites from himself even as he saw many shades of grey for other peoples’ worlds. To me, the sudden lust for blood, did not sit well with the Harry Bosch I had come to know. And to me it seemed that Connelly just took the easy way out, like he didn’t care anymore.
Anyway, this is not about that book. It is about a thing that happened in that book which I read about two weeks before coming to China. People in the novel were burning money on the side of the road as a gift to the gods. I thought it sounded really primitive and, with my very Western view of Hong Kong thought it could not possibly happen.
And then I saw this:
Not real money, but effigies of money. And they are appeasing or worshipping (depending on who I spoke to) the spirits of the dead. According to the novel, they did this on the Chinese version of All Hallows but I have seen them doing this maybe three times since I’ve been here. Sometimes, there is a person at each corner of an intersection, sometimes it has just been one person, but always on the pavement.
You can see the circle drawn around the fire. This is another time that I wished I could speak more Chinese than “hello” (ni hao), “what is this” (zhe she shen ma), “this is …” (zhe she …) and “early good morning” (zao shang hao) and “it’s snowing!”(I have already forgotten). I would have loved to ask this woman why she was doing this. And then I get to school and forget to ask the woman in the office about it. She is fabulous and makes me learn a new phrase every week – that’s about all I can cope with!
So many things going on around me all the time. I don’t think my mind has been this awake for many years.