According to Chinese customs, it is important to burn joss papers. It is believed that this practice sends the material wealth and money to your deceased friends and relatives. We honor, love, and respect our deceased. That’s why many practices are still prevalent.
People who are keen, whenever they are in China, will come across small shrines constructed outside shops or at the house wall’s sides. Normally, they have lots of incense and fruits. Now, these places are where this tradition of burning joss papers happens. Here, let’s learn everything you want to know about joss papers.
Introduction to a Joss Paper
These papers are called joss papers, spirit papers, or ghost money. All mean the same thing i.e., the Chinese paper offerings. These papers are manufactured with rice paper or bamboo paper. They are used for appeasing the deceased for prosperity wishes, transformation, fertility, payment of spiritual debts, and other purposes.
Joss papers are decorated in various ways depending on their purpose. For instance, the conventional joss paper that is used for worship ancestors is generally decorated with a square of silver or gold foil. This represents stamps, money, embossing, and symbols. On the square, there’s a portion that can be used to write wishes.
Another kind of joss paper is the money one. This paper is also called hell bank notes. This conventional paper has a bank of earth seal and heaven. On the other hand, others resemble legal tender from various parts of the world.
The last uncommon type is the one that displays the material wealth or luxuries that the deceased either possessed or not. These papers come in the form of TV screens, houses, cars, and more.
The Origin of a Joss Paper
This paper came into being somewhere during the six dynasties period. That’s when life was extremely tough in ancient China. Most Chinese were farmers back then, who would toil and soil and get no produce. Then, they went for a way that would take them out of poverty. This is how the burning of a joss paper originated.
According to archaeologists, the joss paper offerings started about 1000 BC. In the tombs, money replications were left, which must have been presented for appeasing the departed. Moreover, it is said when emperors died in ancient times, their men were killed so that they would continue working for them in the divine realm.
However, people realized with time that this practice was inhuman. Thus, they started burning a joss paper. The Taoists started producing a human image with joss paper for representing servants of the emperor in the next world.
To date, the burning of a joss paper is performed at the crematoriums, grave sites, funerals, and temples. Also, it happens throughout the Qingming festival and the Hungry Ghost festival, which are celebrated between April 4 to April 6 and August 14 to September 12, respectively.
Significance of Burning a Joss Paper
On the Hungry Ghost festival, the departed come to earth for seeking food. The ritual of burning joss papers assists in absolving the grieving ghosts. It’s the responsibility of the living for ensuring that the dead souls are satisfied. This way they become their guardian angles and leave them alone.
They assist in ensuring that the departed have a nice afterlife. That’s why people include joss papers burning throughout funerals. Many religions believe that there’s life after death. Thus, this practice assists in maintaining a relationship with ancestors.
In China, many temples have big furnaces outside that is where the burning of joss papers takes place. That’s believed for bringing good fortune. You are expected for making the paper offerings but never use real money as burning actual money brings back luck.
They are used while making wishes and honoring the deities, Gods, and Ghosts. The most significant usage of joss paper is that it helps the living remember their departed ones. Therefore, it maintains a respectful relationship.
Chinese believe that those in the afterlife have the same requirements as the living. Thus, the joss paper offerings are employed for paying off debts, partake in trade. Basically, they make life easier in the spiritual realm.
Where is a joss paper used?
A joss paper is used on different occasions, where its uses are unique. It is quite right to take up that those having shrines within their residents can burn joss anytime they want.
There are some who practice this ritual on particular occasions. On the other hand, some wait for gatherings or perform it on daily basis.
At funerals – People believe that there’s a spiritual bank from where the ghosts can withdraw money. These offerings are carried out at the joss paper squares. The spirits should not arrive at the other realm empty-handed. Thus, the burning of joss paper and household things ensure their happy stay.
At death anniversaries or birthdays of ancestors – The Chinese celebrate the death anniversaries and birthdays of ancestors as they believe life does not end there. They even hold parties with favorite meals of the deceased. At that time, the burning of joss paper occurs.
Qingming festival and the Hungry Ghost month – At Qingming festival, offerings are made for appeasing the departed. Usually, this involves the burning of joss papers. The Hungry Ghost month is another event where this activity is involved. This is for calming restless ghosts, especially the ones without dear ones.
Daily activity – Chinese use the burning joss paper ritual for remembering loved ones. Also, it is done for bringing good luck. It is pretty easy to find a joss paper in China, especially in Sheng Wan, Hong Kong. In other countries, one can order them online.
How do people burn a joss paper?
When it comes to burning joss papers, there’s no particular process that you have to follow. However, the family following this ritual should carry it out in a respectful and sincere manner. One should place fruits or food on the ground or altar for appeasing the deceased. In some cases, people light up incense sticks and present their wishes or prayers.
Before the incense stick stops lighting, take the paper with both hands and make your wish. Finally, go out in open and burn the paper in a metal can.
So, this is all about joss papers. Chinese do perform this ritual on special occasions. While there are some claims that this ritual causes an environmental hazard, people do not stop this activity. It is recommended that manufacturers should use environmental-friendly materials. This tradition is still followed by many for appeasing the deceased.