RU  UK  EN
Articles  >  Imagine  >  LOST ISLAND OF YAP. THE LAND OF BIG MONEY

LOST ISLAND OF YAP. THE LAND OF BIG MONEY

Author: 22.11.2016 | traditions, Micronesia
How can you understand the nature of finance, if there is no desire to go deep into the jungle of science? It is better to see once, than to read a hundred times: a trip to the island of Yap in Micronesia replaces the entire university course of monetary theory. Yap roads are lined up with giant doughnut-shaped, carved disks the size of a millstone - rampant inflation has made the world biggest money into fun for tourists.

Many phenomena have been credited with the invention of stone money by tourist guides to Micronesia. Among inventors were named space aliens, disappeared giants inhabited the mythical continent of Lemuria - bored mere mortal is free to choose a legend to his liking. Meanwhile, it is known that the exotic currency which is called rai, appeared about five hundred years ago, in the heyday of the Neolithic culture of the Caroline Islands.

A civilization that was able to erect a monumental city of Nan Madol on artificial islands, undoubtedly had a complex multi-layered economy, which required a universal equivalent of commodities, rarely found in nature. Europe used to send expeditions for gold, and Yap navigators explored a large deposit of the mineral aragonite in the coral rocks of remote Palau island. The islanders were amazed by the beautiful stone with pearlescent, like Gauri shells, serving as exchange coin in small transactions, so, briskly knocking of stone axes came to Palau, however, it proved to be very difficult to "chop" currency.

Local leaders have imposed a strict tribute for production of aragonite, and forced guests from Yap to perform heavy chores for access to the deposits of strategic resource. They had not much time for manufacture, and the miners worked from dawn to dusk. While some workers were digging impregnable rocks, and climbing up the steep slopes with agility of a monkey, others were hewing stones with sharpened shell knives, shaping disks with a circular through hole for carrying on a bamboo pole. They did not have food every day, and survived on a meagre diet of shellfish and edible shoots of taro plants. Yet, workers had a hard four hundred kilometres long journey back home on overloaded leaky boats. Many boats overturned and sank - weakened rowers could not cope with high waves.

Not surprisingly, that rai obtained at the cost of human lives, were revered as a shrine: it was strictly forbidden to sit or to stand on the stone, and only representatives of the two higher castes were allowed to possess that kind of money. The most valuable specimens were assigned names, and transactions with their participation was accompanied by solemn ceremonies and dances.

Nominal value of rai depended not only on the disc size, but also on the individual stories related to production, transportation, and track record of each stone, known by heart by every islander. Also owner status had value: coin, after having been in the hands of the leader, dramatically added to the price. The stone disc with a diameter of two meters and a half was equivalent of a boat or a piece of land, and the larger rai helped marry off a notable bride. The tradition of paying stone money for a bride has been observed till now, but young people can hardly take seriously customs of their ancestors.

Rai were stored in equipped areas like banks, near the communal houses. When all the banknotes are known personally, theft makes no sense, so why bother to move heavy stone blocks from hut to hut? Moreover, the Yapese had extensive knowledge of the cryptocurrency mechanism: lost in a shipwreck discs were successfully replaced by the stories of witnesses who confirmed quarrying and long transaction history stored in folk memory. The most famed rai bank located on the atoll Rulung near the town of Colonia, capital of Yap. Here are exhibited huge coins about four meters in diameter, made in the late 19th century. That time Yap was raged by rampant inflation, provoked by one man.

Convicted for murder in his native Georgia, the USA, sea captain named David O'Keefe escaped from justice, he was surfing the Pacific Ocean on a fishing boat, till in 1871 was shipwrecked near Yap and was helped by the local sorcerer. Recovered, enterprising sailor suddenly realized how to earn extra money on the naive natives. To begin with, he supplied Yapese men with iron tools, and local banks got overloaded with raw material. Inspired by success, the local masters made tons of new coins, they wanted to ship them to Yap but lacked boats. It was time for O'Keefe’s proposal, which tribal elders failed to decline – an enterprising Irish American contracted to transport rai in exchange for sea cucumbers and copra.

Soon the island was swept by monetary fever, between Palau and Yap continuously shuttled agile ship, but O'Keefe rapidly grew rich by reselling exotic products to Hong Kong. Aborigines were blissfully happy with a crazy wealth, but a fairy tale ended as suddenly as it had begun. Money has become much more than the commodities, wealthy families impoverished, left on the ashes of hope with useless piles of stones, which were good for a building a hedge only.

In 1890, Germany bought the "island of bad luck" from Spain, so German administration had to deal with inflation. Rai production was limited at the legislative level, and exchange surplus was unceremoniously removed for the construction of roads. Before gaining independence by Micronesia, Yap Archipelago changed owners three times, having lost nearly half of the remaining stone money on the steep turns of history. Nowadays the Yapese prefer US dollars, and artefacts serve as an exotic background for photo shoots - according to recent data, on Yap there are over 13 thousand rai.

It will be interesting:
YOUR BREAKFAST, SIR! HOW PEOPLE START THEIR DAY AROUND THE WORLD
A mini toast, a slice of cheese and a sip of strong coffee. "That is not a buffet!" a waiter will pronounce indignantly, looking at the disgruntled tourist’s face. The generous Ukrainian soul cannot understand how locals manage to eat their full with that. Therefore, before going to a new country, you need to know exactly whether in the evening you should prepare a couple of sandwiches to indulge them in the morning, whether you need some vegetables, or even some extra litres of water!
THORNY PATH OF FLOWER
Traditional Japanese kabuki theatre has always been a mystery to the European mentality: only an expert on the culture of the Land of the Rising Sun can understand a play without guide’s tips.
Video: Craft of Uzbekistan. Golden-stitched embroidery
OUTLOOK was lucky to visit hospitable Uzbekistan and get better acquainted with crafts of this amazing country. Today we'll tell you about art of golden-stitched embroidery: about mediums artisans use, secrets and unique distinctives of this craft. Feel the world with us!
Inti Raymi: let’s meet sun along with Peruvians
Today in our Peruvian series is a narration about the colorful and coloristic celebration of a winter conjunction which history has been lasting from the times of the Incas Empire.
Nan Madol: A City over an Abyss
Only an abandoned artificial archipelago with traces of extinct civilizations can better than a deserted island! Cadent splash of oars that plows blue dreams of the Pacific Ocean quells drumroll of ecstasy in your temples while preparing will and mind to the meeting with the greatest mystery of Micronesia. Nan Madol lies empty for more than one hundred years; mighty walls are gnawed away by sea salt but even in thrall of oblivion the forbidden city doesn’t lose its greatness.
Forgotten art: Chinese ceremony in Korea
After the walking along the boisterous streets of Seoul one wants to take it easy in a café drinking a cup of flavored tea, however, it never happens like that. Good teahouses are found out only near Buddhist monasteries or at the bohemian pedestrian street Insadon. Chinese ceremony in Korea that is incomparable with the rough schedule of offices and plants do not reach out people remaining the joy of wise people and privilege of the masters.
The spouse of Ambassador of India made a meeting Ambassadors Spouses Club and demonstration of national clothes
The spouse of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to Ukraine Anamica Bharti organized a meeting of the club of ambassadors wives Ambassadors Spouses Club in the course of which it was a display of traditional Indian clothes and friendly dinner.
Tasty Japan: Give the Country a Try
Ice cream with a taste of horse meat, pickled insects, fish with deadly venom, etc – Japanese cuisine has things to surprise, amaze and shock you with. And truth be told, enumeration of these dishes doesn’t help my appetite at all. But we are not after exotic stuff. True culinary tourism is an attempt to comprehend mindset and feel national distinctive color through traditional cuisine – not try most exotic dishes. Parts of people’s souls, its history and culture are actually concentrated in national dainties.
Crafts of Uzbekistan. Straw Items
OUTLOOK was lucky to visit hospitable Uzbekistan and get better acquainted with crafts of this amazing country. Today we tell you about art of straw work, about materials that craftsmen use and what secrets and unique features of this craft are. Feel the world with us!
"Goat-dragging"
“To drag a goat with one’s hands” is a national entertainment of Tajik men however it enjoys huge popularity around Central Asia in the whole. As a rule a couple dozens, sometimes as many as a hundred, skilled and nimble horse riders gather to drag the goat. There is such a throng during the event that people fall off their horses, lose consciousness and even get maimed. Although the players attempt at protecting their legs and heads, hurts and bruises are commonplace for them anyway.
Nihongami: Topknot as a Sign of Status
Nihongami is a certain way to arrange hair in Japanese tradition. Interestingly, in the Land of the Rising Sun hairdos were legally controlled and served as some sort of dress code for ladies of different social statuses and classes. Therefore, each class had strictly determined corresponding outfit and hairstyle and those laws are still obeyed by geishas and their apprentices.
VIDEO: OUTLOOK SHOW. Fashion of the Nation
Folk costume is one of traditional cultural symbols. Diverstiry of colors, adornment elements and decoration styles reflect inimitble nature of every nation. Ukrainians managed to get acquianted with distinctive features of traditional fashion thank to OUTLOOK Project, Institute of Interational Relations and Development Fund of the Institute of Internatinal Relations as well as 22 embassies of foreign states accredited in Ukraine. Today we suggest you enjoy a video, in which different cultures, traditions and history entertwined in a single dance....
OUTLOOK Project will hold show of national costumes of the world with input from foreign embassies
OUTLOOK Project that operates in the sphere of culture diplomacy will hold a show of national costumes of peoples the world OUTLOOK SHOW. Fashion of the Nation. Over 20 embassies to Ukraine will present best looks from traditional costumes of their countries in the show.
VIDEO: Crafts of Uzbekistan. Amazing product pumpkin
When talking about bottle, they mean a pumpkin. When thinking about a musical instrument rubab, they recall a pumpkin. When buying a chandelier, they consider a pumpkin as an option. When looking at the cage for parrots, they again refer to a pumpkin. This field vegetable in Uzbekistan has different designations and not only in the form of porridge. Thanks to the Embassy of Uzbekistan OUTLOOK poschastlyvylos pobыvat radushnoy within this country and poznakomytsya with udyvytelnыmy mestnыmy crafts
Road to Asia is paved with carpets
Carpets hang on walls as a symbol of wealth, lay on floors to create coziness and are presented as expensive gifts. Studying fancy pictures in the shapes of diamonds and stars on them attempting to figure out their meaning is a fairly amusing thing to do. Globally spread carpeting traditions were borrowed from eastern peoples who were the first to learn how to make yarn and fabric out of fibrous materials. Specimens preserved in museums and private collections as well as researches of historians and archeologists testify to the existence of this craft in ages thousands years ago.
ESKIMO IGLOO: IT IS AS EASY AS PIE TO BUILD CASTLES IN... SNOW
A little son came to his father and suggested to run away from mom and granny to the North Pole? Now, do not indulge into tragic speeches of severe frosts, pitch darkness of the polar night and hungry polar bears! Give a conspiracy wink to a little brave one, and give him a real man's job for his school winter holidays that is to learn how to build an igloo, night shelter in ever-frost lands.
Christmas Eve and What’s to Follow
Christmas arrives with a warm overjacket on its shoulders. At night it brings warm light of the first evening star and in the morning it wakes you up with shine of white but warm sun. If my great-grandmonther’s grandmother had been asked about her Christmas feelings, I believe, her words would have been identical to mine. Because together with a bowl of kutia, generations of Ukrainians transfer their traditions from hand to hand.
Maculele: dance to make the sparks fly
When the first emigrants from Africa came to Brazil, they brought rousing actions in the country that had been living upon the principle ‘Life is a carnival’. As the citizens of Africa explained, dance maculele appeared in the environment where slaves had to protect themselves from the encroachment of their owners. That is why representatives of nation mastered sticks and knives provided that the weapon was hold in the arms even during the dances…
WEDDING TRADITIONS OF THE WORLD: FROM GEESE TO LASSO
Stealing the bride's shoe in the midst of the celebration, and to require unimaginable redemption from the groom, is an interesting action for which it is worth to go to the wedding party. This is not the only wedding tradition of country, by which the legal wedlock of two hearts acquires a special flavour. What are interesting rituals of different parts of our planet? We leave for the honeymoon in search of the most original and unusual traditions of the peoples of the world!
VIDEO: GLASS FROM THE HOLY TOWN
Hebron is well known for being the city of 3 [three] religions and 3 [three] civilizations, a real place of power. Perhaps that is why by twist of fate there emerged glass which looks fragile, but is centuries old, the same as Hebron.
Close
Outlook facebook page