The (cultural) value of money

It’s often said that Americans worship money. This is also true for the Chinese, though they seem to be more transparent about it.

A fellow student of mine in undergrad who came from Macau once said, “Money money money! All I want is to make money!” Her explicit transparency surprised me; I’m used to the token veneer maintained by money-worshiping Westerners. And now comes a CBC article about a Chinese family, written by a Canadian-born-Chinese:

What took me by surprise one day was hearing my friend’s seven-year-old daughter Carrie say, “I love mun-ee.” “You love money? Why?” I asked. She giggled and said, “My mom and dad love money.”

From this review of Richard von Glahn‘s book, The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture:

dscn5157small.JPGHave you very noticed a brightly-colored picture of a man in traditional costume, flanked by electric red candles, in your favorite, Chinese restaurant, perhaps somewhere near the cash register? Well, that’s a shrine to the god of wealth, the patron deity of millions of Chinese business people.
Centuries ago, Wutong was feared as a demonic deity who would promise fabulous wealth, but at a price – usually the sexual possession of one’s wife or daughter. Fickle and mean, he would then usually deprive one of the riches he had once bestowed.
the demonic Wutong changed into a very different deity, the current god of wealth who has no dark side. Gone is the insight that a lust for riches can poison the heart and pervert the family. Chinese today are totally comfortable with the single-minded drive to make money.

And you though they were communists.

One author we’re reading says there’s only one thing that the Chinese love more than money, but that’s for a later post.

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