November 26, 2007 / 9:00 AM / in 11 years

Taiwan store sells custom treasures for the dead

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - One customer wanted a golf course, another a house with an outdoor hot tub. In Taiwan there’s a store that specializes in providing whatever you covet, as long as you’re dead.

A woman arranges a paper chair inside the "Cafe Casa" paper model made by funerary company Skea in Taipei November 23, 2007. Skea, a 3-month-old Taipei store that has nothing to do with Ikea, sells custom-made, small-scale buildings as well as cars, boats, baseball mitts or just about anything else that can be made from paper, cardboard and light wood. Families of the deceased buy these items at more than $1,000 a piece for loved ones who wanted the items in life but for health or financial reasons couldn't get them. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Skea, a 3-month-old Taipei store that has nothing to do with Ikea, sells custom-made, small-scale buildings as well as cars, boats, baseball mitts or just about anything else that can be made from paper, cardboard and light wood.

Families of the deceased buy these items at more than $1,000 a piece for loved ones who wanted the items in life but for health or financial reasons couldn’t get them. One family ordered a model of the stock exchange.

According to Chinese tradition, these items, the size of giant toys, are burned after a funeral or during annual festivals in Chinese communities worldwide to remember the dead.

The idea is that the deceased live in another realm, but can receive items — including money — from earth that are burned and transformed to smoke.

“We think this is very worthwhile, since what we hear from customers is thank-yous and extreme thank-yous,” said Han Ting-yu, Skea consultant and father of the store’s founder.

Funeral parlors sell pre-made heavenly treasures but do not tailor them to individual requests, Han said.

Skea also offers a line of products, such as clawable couches and doghouses, for dead pets.

Shop owner Yan Ying-chen, 28, hatched the idea at the beginning of the year after her grandfather died without realizing a dream to visit Japan, Han said.

“Older people in Taiwan like Japan a lot, and he really wanted to see hot springs, but his health was in bad shape,” Han said. “That was her inspiration.”

Han calls the shop one of a kind, adding that Skea has more than 30 customers and makes a profit. About 14,000 people, including potential customers from China and North America, have clicked on its Web site www.skea.com.tw

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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