Markets in everything

by on January 8, 2012 at 2:05 am in Economics | Permalink

Squatting at a makeshift shrine with joss sticks burning beside her, Granny Leung starts bashing a manlike paper cut-out with a pair of sandals.

“I beat you little people, I’m sending you away!” chants the 76-year-old woman, one of the last practitioners in Hong Kong of the ancient Chinese ritual of “da siu yan”, or “beating the petty little people”.

Granny Leung performs her mysterious incantations in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay. And business is booming.

For as little as HK$50 ($6), Leung claims she can curse her customers’ enemies and reverse their bad luck by burning paper offerings and hitting paper figures with shoes.

Believers say the ritual can help to drive away evil spirits in general, or a specific nemesis such as a hated neighbour, a business competitor or a love rival.

…Each bout takes about 30 minutes, depending on how tough the villains are and how many times Leung needs to beat them until they are gone.

Another stage of the ritual involves feeding pig lard to paper tigers, which represent malignant beings, so they are full and will not bother people.

Here is more and for the pointer I thank Daniel Lippman.

1 dearieme January 8, 2012 at 2:34 am

One of my ancestors bought a Papal Indulgence, so I don’t have to bother with such oriental superstitions.

2 anon January 8, 2012 at 9:16 am

Uh, I wouldn’t count on that…

(Here is the Catechism on Indulgences:

3 dearieme January 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Outrage: that wasn’t what he was told when he was sold it. “You and your gets can do whatever you like and still go to heaven” was the thrust of it. Poor show. No wonder Luther etc etc.

4 anon January 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm

“Oh dearime, dearime, dearime…”
(spoken by Kenneth More playing Father Brown)

5 JWatts January 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I’m quite willing to sell you an Indulgence against all sins, good in perpetuity, and fully inheritable to your heir of choice for the low, low sum of $0.99 + S&H.

6 Merijn Knibbe January 8, 2012 at 4:27 am

Can you tell me more about how this works with these ‘love rivals’?

7 Someone from the other side January 8, 2012 at 5:11 am

It’s all placebo. Believing in it will up your confidence and by all that the Blog that is not to be named here preaches, that will increase your chances with the girl…

8 Rich Berger January 8, 2012 at 6:58 am

I wonder if Paul Krugman knows about this.

9 Yancey Ward January 8, 2012 at 10:49 am

Sigh……You beat me to it, I was just going to add “it increased animal spirits” and all that.

10 somethingblue January 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Beating the petty little people? Sounds like it might appeal more to Carl-Henric Svanberg …

11 FYI January 8, 2012 at 7:42 am

So that is the Asian version of this
Probably the other way around, who knows. Funny thing is that in Brazil the press can openly criticize the ‘oficial’ Catholic church but no one says a thing about Candomblé (or Macumba which is the popular name).

12 Rahul January 8, 2012 at 8:05 am

Sounds similar to Santería

13 anon January 8, 2012 at 9:19 am

the press can openly criticize the ‘oficial’ Catholic church

Thank goodness.

All religions and ideologies should be open to criticism, scorn and mockery. (And that is said as a practicing and believing Roman Catholic.)

14 DIY January 8, 2012 at 10:36 am

But that’s the point. Not all religions are criticized. Just official traditional western ones. Not PC Candomble, nor santeria, nor of course, Islam. The latter especially because critics are likely to find themselves suffering a bit more than mere paper denunciations.

15 FYI January 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

Yes, that was my point.

I am just not so sure that the reason for them not criticizing it is PC. The so called ‘atheists’ in Brazil seem pretty scared of Macuma 🙂

16 Rahul January 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Criticism of obscure cults is naturally rarer. If you think Islam isn’t criticized (as it ought to be) you must be reading very selectively.

17 Chris January 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I’ve always wondered about the principal agent problems with this sort of thing. Consider the Dodger’s Vladimir Shpunt for example. How do you monitor whether the practitioner does a good job? Furthermore, since it’s all bullshit the people who are most successful are the ones who take your money and spend their time doing other things besides performing lengthly rituals.

18 JWatts January 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm

“the people who are most successful are the ones who take your money and spend their time doing other things besides performing lengthly rituals.”

I doubt this. Or at least I would bet that the most successful performers would be the ones who put on a good show. And a good show would generally be of reasonable lengths and require reasonable production values.

19 Anthony January 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I (non-Catholic) had always imagined indulgences to be book-entry rather than bearer instruments.

20 anon January 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm


21 josh January 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm

One of my mother’s relatives – I think it might be my second cousin – provided a similar service in Taiwan. I never quite understood it, but believers would come by her house so that she could remove malignant spirits from their sick children into a fresh egg.

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