February 10, 2010 in Education (F)
[prMac.com] Hong Kong - An iPhone app that presents the ancient Asian tradition of burning "Hell Bank Notes" has been released at the iPhone App Store. A video showing this distinctive app in action has attracted more than 30,000 hits in Asia just two weeks after it was posted.
In China and some other regions in East Asia, it is customarily believed that the dead, too, need cash to spend in the underworld. In traditional ceremonies of ancestor worship, fake monetary paper called "Hell Bank Notes" are offered to the spirits of the deceased by burning, in order to ensure their fortune in the afterlife.
"I bet this app would sound very weird to Western iPhone users," said Ivan Wan, the software developer who created this mobile application. "But people all over the world who are of Chinese descent really do practice this tradition today. So why not make an app for those who have preserved this tradition, and let them wire money to the dead whenever and wherever they want?"
While working on the app, Wan strictly followed the conventions in Hell Bank Note designs. "The notes are known for their amusingly large denominations, ranging from $10,000 to $1,000,000,000, so people often joke that inflation must be high down there." Wan remarked. "The old man on the front of these notes is 'Yu Wong' or Jade Emperor, who is considered the highest-ranking god in Chinese folk religion. And Hell Bank is always pictured as the institution that issues this paper money. These design conventions must be observed, too."
More than a fully functional simulator for Hell-money burning, this app also serves as an educational tool that introduces the ancient Asian custom to those who are unfamiliar with it. The app includes a short essay on the history of Hell Bank Notes, and a photo gallery of Hell money from different parts of the world, with explanations of common designs and various recurring themes. The gallery includes notes modeled after U.S. paper money, one that resembles a credit card, and one that portrays Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on the front. For users who wish to learn more, the app also provides an external link to the Wikipedia entry on the practice.
To promote this app, a video demonstrating the traditional way to burn Hell Bank Notes, and then the iPhone app in action, was posted on YouTube on January 12. More than 30,000 views were generated in two week, over 90% of them coming from Asia, according to YouTube Insight statistics. While a few viewers who have left comments find this app unworthy ("wtf," "fxxking stupid"), most comments are positive ("cool app," "great idea"), and many agree, in particular, that the app suggests friendliness to the environment.
When asked if he believes the dead indeed receive money when this iPhone App is used, Wan said that he thinks "the chance should be roughly the same as burning real paper money."
* iPhone and iPod touch
* Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later
* 9.5 MB
Pricing and Availability:
Hell Bank Notes 1.1 is only $1.99 (USD) and available exclusively through the App Store in the Education category.
Ivan Wan is an indie software developer and new-media artist resides in Hong Kong. Hell Bank Note is his first iPhone App release. Copyright (C) 2010 Ivan Wan. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone and iPod are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.