Ming exhibition – the bureaucracy of heaven

There is much to enjoy in the British Museum’s Ming exhibition. Not least in the captions:

‘…marriage certificate buried with Lady Wei, to confirm her identity to the bureaucrats who were believed to govern the afterlife.’

This is a level of practicality I’ve never accounted before, and it begs the question – how does god (or gods) administer the afterlife? For the Chinese it seems heaven or the afterlife was simply an extension of life on earth. It is a rather chilling vision to us, but probably was reassuring to Lady Wei.

Heaven to us Westerners is a more ethereal, less practical construct. The marvellous visions of John Martin notwithstanding, we prefer to leave it pretty woolly – and live in hope.

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