Hong Kong

Joss Paper Offerings

While I was in Yau Ma Tei and visiting the Tin Hau Temple, I noticed a lot of paper items waiting to be burned. These were all arranged for an upcoming funeral or ancestor worship ceremony.

I had written about hell money before (here) which is spirit money that is burnt and hence given to the departed, so they can use it in the spirit world.

But it is not just money that is important, also clothes, a house to live in, some forms of transport, entertainment items (like cards or even an iPad) and even servants might be needed in the afterworld.

Joss Paper offerings 1

All these items are available in different sizes and colours – but the most expensive ones are actually those that are specially made for the departed. There are shops that actually build mini-replicas of a deceased house or car – of course, these items can run into thousands of Hong Kong dollars!

Joss Paper offerings 2

Joss Paper offerings 3

Joss Paper offerings 4

Many temples have large furnaces outside the main gate to burn joss paper or items. Folding the paper is an important part of the burning ceremony as it distinguishes joss paper from actual money. Burning actual money would be untenable for most people, and is also considered unlucky in Asian cultures. The Joss paper may be folded into specific shapes which are meant to bring on good luck and people tend to burn lavish amounts to ensure that the offering is well received. But I really wonder what they do with the big houses – the one I took these pictures of was at least 1 metres tall!


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