6. Supermarket of the Dead 冥間超市

“Supermarket of the Dead. Burnt offerings in China and the Cult of Globalised Consumption”  – an exhibition by Wolfgang Scheppe with the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) in the Northwing, Reception Floor of the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace), 14 March to 14 June 2015. 

A three-volume publication accompanied the exhibition, and, thanks to a gift from Hartwig Fischer, there’s a copy in the library of the Dept of Coins and Medals, at the British Museum.

Supermarket of the Dead. Burnt Offerings in China & the Cult of Globalised Consumption, edited by Wolfgang Scheppe for the Dresden State Art Collections, 3 vols (Dresden: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig), 2015. ISBN 978-3-86335-716-0 [German edition ISBN 978-3-86335-715-3)


Vol. 1: Zhizha Paper Shoes: The Collection of Rosanna Wei-han Li, Hong Kong

Vol. 1: edited and conceived by Wolfgang Scheppe, photographed by Adrian Sauer, curated with Sara Codutti, Rita Fortin, Marie Letz. This volume consists of colour photographs of shoes made of paper, a pair of shoes per page


Vol. 2: Essays

Vol. 2: Essays by Friederike Assandri, C. Fred Blake, Petra Martin, Wolfgang Scheppe and Uta Werlich


Vol. 3: Zhizha Paper Products

Vol. 3: edited and conceived by Wolfgang Scheppe, photographed by Sara Codutti, curated with Sara Codutti, Rita Fortin, Marie Letz. This volume consists of colour photographs of different items made of paper. Each item is captioned with a price in HK$, the name of the item in English and Chinese. There is an English (Chinglish) or Chinese caption at the foot of each page – they read like slogans (traditional, political or advertising) sometimes in translated pairs, sometimes with mistranslations, sometimes apparently randomly paired (or not in pairs).


Vol. 2 – Essays –  this contains six essays (each with endnotes) and a bibliography. Illustrated with black and white photographs.

(1) IN EFFEGIE – Representational Magic in the Supermarket of the Dead – by Wolfgang Scheppe, Arsenale Institute for Politics of Representation, Venice (tr. Richard Humphrey)

  1. The Burnt Offering of the Simulacrum
  2. The Perpetuation of the Money Economy
  3. Mystification of the Feudal Economy
  4. Ancestor Worship and the Need of Abundance
  5. Pseudo-Money and Banknotes
  • Origins
  • Resilience
  • Spread
  1. Ritual and Changing Form
  2. Globalized Animism
  • Hybridization
  • The False Particularity of the Brand
  • Freedom of Choice and the Politics of Desire
  • The Exclusive and the Exclusion
  • Sense and Idealist Consumption
  • Epilogue

(2) THE CULT OF THE DEAD – Paper Offerings in the Context of Burial Culture and Ancestor Worship – Uta Werlich, Linden-Museum, Stuttgart (tr. Carola Schulman)

(3) ANCESTOR WORSHIP IN CHINA – Afterlife Conceptions and Practice in the World of Man – Friederike Assandri , IAAW, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

  • The Oldest Testimonials: Ancestors, Gods, and Sacrifices of the Kings of Shang Dynasty
  • The World of Men,: Confucius and the Rites and Sacrifices to the Ancestors
  • The Yin-World of the Ancestors:
  1. Yin and Yang
  2. Conceptions of the Soul
  3. Conceptions of the Afterlife
  4. The Contribution of Buddhism: Purgatory, Salvation and Rebirth
  5. A Hybrid Other World
  • Gods and Ghosts
  • Conclusion: Sacrifical Offerings and Imaginations of the Otherworld

(4) BURNING MONEY – The Paper Money Custom in China and Its Modern Fate – C. Fred Blake, Department of Anthropology, University of Hawaii

  • Fundamentals of Paper Money
  • The Ludic Spirit of Paper Money
  • Official Attitudes
  • The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
  • Paper Monies’ Modern Fate

(5) THE OLGA-JULIA WEGENER COLLECTION – Chinese Paper Offerings at the Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig – Petra Martin, Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden (tr. Orla Ambrose)

(6) THE OBJECTS IN THE SAXON COLLECTIONS – Paper Offerings from the Ethnographic Museums in Leipzig and Dresden – Dietmar Grundmann, Peter Martin, Siegmar Nahser (tr. Lance Anderson)



There are collections of “spirit paper” and “hell money” in the Dept of Asia, and the Dept of Coins and Medals, at the British Museum.

In 1910 the British Museum acquired the Olga-Julia Wegener collection of Chinese paintings. See Huang, Y. L. M.. (2013). The acquisition of the Wegener collection of Chinese paintings by the British Museum. The Burlington Magazine, 155(1324), 463-470.

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