Throwing Money

Everyone searches for a little luck here and there, but at what cost? Lighting a candle and putting some money into a bucket is one thing, but when people, animals and monuments are being damaged, hasn’t it all gone too far?

USE.WTDWturtle money throwWhen Chinese have a wish, they often go to temple and ask for their gods’ help to meet their demands. Since they never really talk to gods, they logically think to give out donations to show sincerity. Hey, even god won’t do a favor for nothing. The “no pay, no gain” theory covers everything, including faith.

As a result, countless coins and small bills can often be seen in ponds, on sculptures or at altars, though, probably, a donation box is the place where they belong.

Taking their tributes even further, people have realized that they can double down on giving—doing so both in the church setting and out. Perhaps this explains the growing trend of tossing money at displays in museums, in cages containing live animals at zoos or at historic exhibits. Do any of these things also have the power or ability to bring forth any of their wishes? Probably not, but likely neither can statues and temples.

In Dalian’s Shengya Ocean World, sea turtles can barely move in the shallow coin-crammed pond. The turtle is sacred in Chinese folklore, due to their longevity, but it seems unlikely these poor ones will survive much longer if the donations continue.

At Chengdu’s Wide and Narrow Alley—a major cultural and nightlife block consisting of ancient lanes and courtyards—a 10-square-meter pond was turned into a Chinese “Fontana di Trevi” starting when the first tourist was inspired to toss a coin into its moldy water. This past CNY, staff worked for two hours to collect nearly 2,700 RMB from the freezing water. The splendid donation reportedly went to heroic rescuers from recent disasters.

At Beijing’s Natural Museum, hundreds of RMB notes were squeezed into a dinosaur fossil’s case by visitors. One can only imagine that since these creatures were once the most dominant species on Earth, their spirits are still sticking around and waiting for an opportunity to once again rule the world. Or, maybe it’s simply a long-running joke.

Zhang Zuolin (1875-1928) was the warlord of Manchuria from 1916 to 1928 and had never before been so busy fulfilling people’s desires than during his final position. Despite the fact that a sign outside his office in Shenyang read, “No tossing money, thank you for your cooperation,” mountains of coins continuously covered the floor, table and chairs. A middle-aged man probably once fired a coin and when it exactly landed in the chair, he might have whispered: “May my son do well on his exam and go to a good high school!”

Though, unlike human recipients of gifts, animals can’t get exactly jump on Taobao and buy adorable cases for their iPhones because their keepers would probably take them away.

In Dalian’s Shengya Ocean World, sea turtles can barely move in the shallow coin-crammed pond. The turtle is sacred in Chinese folklore, due to their longevity, but it seems unlikely these poor ones will survive much longer if the donations continue.

Crocodiles in Shanghai Zoo are being treated similarly, but for an entirely different reason. Some visitors confessed that because the beasts hardly move in winter, people decided to chuck coins at them to check if they were still alive. Or, at least they were hoping the tips would inspire the reptiles to put on a show.

Researcher Zhang Sining from Liaoning Social Science Academy commented that this kind of behavior is not always done as an act of praying to god or making a wish.

Similar to the popularity of scrawling the infamous graffiti of “so-and-so was here” a few years ago, people eventually understood that this is unacceptable and uncivilized behavior, and so they stopped it. By leaving their unique imprint, they successfully mark their existence in a place, perhaps giving them greater self-worth.

Coin tossing is so prevalent among Chinese tourists that some attractions have created rules dedicated to standardizing how the money should be used. According to the Tourist Throwing Coins Regulation at the Ming Dynasty Tombs in Beijing, the money tossed by tourists should not be used for bonuses or salaries of staff, but for site maintenance.

This new, regrettable behavior has also created tremendous troubles for those collecting the donations, let alone damaging the monuments and facilities, themselves. Last year, staff at Wuhan’s Guiyuan Temple had to wear helmets while clearing the shrine of the Wealth God to protect themselves from the non-stop showers of coinage.

At some point, maybe a realization will take hold that keeping their money or donating through more direct channels can make a larger impact. Although, maybe it’s all just an effort to get rid of unwanted small change.