Every Qingming Festival in China, or some other anniversaries of the deceased, people burn joss paper for their deceased relatives. People believe that joss paper is the money in another world of the deceased, and if you burn more joss paper, the deceased will have money in that world.
So where does this custom come from and why do people do it? In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about joss paper.
What is joss paper?
Joss paper is a coin used to worship ghosts and gods and for the deceased to enjoy, also known as ancestor money or ghost money.
Joss paper is generally cut out of white paper into the shape of copper coins.
In addition to money, people also burn gold ingots, paper airplanes, paper cars, paper sedan chairs, paper houses, etc.
The Chinese feel that what they burn will allow the dead to have something in the underworld.
In general, joss paper are physical representations of money and everyday necessities such as clothing, personal electronics, and household items.
The basic concept behind burning joss paper is to deliver offerings to the spiritual world through the smoke of fire.
Types of joss paper
Traditional ancestor money
Joss paper is traditionally made from coarse bamboo paper, which feels handmade with many variances and imperfections, although rice paper is also commonly used.
Traditional joss is cut into individual squares or rectangles. Depending on the region, Joss paper may be decorated with seals, stamps, pieces of contrasting paper, engraved designs or other motifs.
Different types of spirit money are given to distinct categories of spirits.
Cash monies are given to newly deceased spirits and spirits of the unknown.
The joss paper with gold foil is called “gold paper”, which is burnt to the gods or used for blessing. Different specifications of gold paper are selected according to the size of the godhead.
The joss paper with silver foil is called “silver paper”, which is is given exclusively to ancestral spirits as well as other spirits.
Ingots folded out of gold paper, used to worship the gods. There are many ways to fold gold ingots, which add a piece of your own mind to the traditional gold paper.
Copper coin paper
It is made by punching the shape of a copper coin on a square-shaped piece of grass paper. Copper coin paper has a wide range of uses. According to the size of the paper and the number of copper coins, it can be divided into joss paper for gods and joss paper for dead.
Ancestor money crafts
There is also a kind of joss paper with servants, beauties, cars, houses, daily necessities, etc. painted on it. This kind of joss paper is not a general form of currency, but represents the real thing itself.
Because of the prevalence of Buddhism, some people will print Buddhist scriptures and mantras on paper and burn them to ancestors and dead souls, hoping to obtain blessings in this way, such as “rebirth money” printed with reincarnation mantras.
Those who are more serious will use this kind of joss paper to fold lotus flowers and paper boats to symbolize the transcendence to the blissful world.
Hang ancestor money
In ancient China, long strands were cut from colored paper, and hanging on the tomb was called hanging ancestor money.
Generally speaking, there are two styles of hanging ancestor money, one is colored, called “five-color paper,” and the other is pure yellow.
Modern hell money is usually printed in the shape of modern banknotes.
Common portraits of modern paper money include Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, Guanyin Bodhisattva, Jade Emperor, Sanguan Great, Dongyue Great Emperor, Yama, Eight Immortals, God of Wealth, City God, Land gods and even some deceased celebrities.
In recent years, “Paradise Credit Card” and “Paradise Check” have also become popular.
The design of the “Paradise Credit Card” is very similar to a real credit card, which made of gold cardstock with the “VISA” stamped on it.
The origin of “burning joss paper money”
The custom of paper money originated in China and was introduced to the United States in the 19th century with the first Chinese immigrants to California.
Burning joss paper is definitely related to paper.
The inventor of Chinese papermaking was Cai Lun, but he did not make joss paper burning become a custom, which was related to his elder brother Cai Mo.
Legend has it that Cai Lun gained both fame and fortune because of his papermaking skills. Cai Lun’s sister-in-law was very envious when he saw that he had made a fortune.
It’s a pity that Cai Mo didn’t learn the essence of papermaking. The paper he made was so thick and black that he couldn’t sell it.
His wife was very angry when she saw this, and suddenly fell to the ground and died during a quarrel.
Cai Mo was very sad, it’s these rough papers made his wife so angry and died in a hurry. So he burned the papers one by one next to his wife’s coffin to relieve the anger and sadness in his heart.
But unexpectedly, there was a knocking sound inside the coffin.
The villagers opened the coffin lid to take a look, Cai Mo’s wife sat up and kept repeating a sentence: “The hades trades in paper. My husband burned the paper, so the ghost let me back.”
The villagers were very shocked to see her resurrected, and listened to her meaning “Her husband burned joss paper for her, so that she could have money in the underworld to establish a good relationship with the ghosts, and then escaped the underworld and returned to the human world.”
The villagers were skeptical of her statement, but Cai Mo’s wife talked about it with everyone since then, and talked a lot, so more and more people believed and accepted the burning of paper.
After that, the rough paper made by Cai Mo was finally sold, and he also made a lot of money. He didn’t blame his wife for pretending to be dead.
Since then, burning joss paper for the deceased has gradually become a custom, which is a kind of sustenance for people to hope that their relatives in the underworld can live a better life.
The real meaning of “burning joss paper”
As can be seen from the above story, the joss paper is actually a currency that can flow in the world and the underworld by “burning”.
People will convey their thoughts and love to their deceased relatives by burning paper.
They also remembered the memories of their deceased people and shared their joys, sorrows and joys in the world through the act of burning paper to pay homage.
It is a way for people to express their grief and mood.
If no one comes to visit the tomb of the deceased to pay homage, and no one burns joss paper for him, it means that no one remembers him in the world, and this is a kind of social death.
The death we often say is the death of the body in the biological sense, which means that the physiological function of a person stops functioning and life ends.
The second kind of death is the death of the soul. When the body of the deceased is burned or buried, the soul has no body to rest on, so the soul has nowhere to rest and can only wander around.
The third type of death refers to social death, that is, the deceased person is completely forgotten and not remembered in this world. No one will pay homage to the deceased, burn paper and sweep the grave for the deceased, then the deceased will die socially.
Social death can be said to be the complete death of man in the world, and there is no trace of this man’s connection with the world.
Burning paper is a way of resisting social death. It reminds people to take time out on important holidays to remember the deceased person, remember the things he has done and the contributions he has made.
As long as this custom of paying homage to the deceased is not eliminated, the spirit of those deceased will continue to shine in this world.
When to burn joss paper?
In Western countries, funerals are mainly for the deceased to pray for the soul to ascend to heaven.
In China, the death of a person is often associated with a family, and the core of the family spirit is “filial piety”.
Children need to serve the deceased just like the deceased was alive, so they need to put on four seasons shrouds for the deceased, offer meals, burn ancestor money, carefully select the cemetery, play mourning music. The children should cry to express their grief and remorse for the death of the deceased.
The Chinese consider it unfortunate to come to the afterlife empty-handed or in debt. Therefore, burning joss paper is an important part of Chinese funeral customs.
Children burn joss paper money for the deceased at funerals for use in the afterlife, often including gold coins, large amounts of currency and household necessities such as clothing, electronics and jewelry.
Ching Ming Festival
The Qingming Festival is from April 4th to 6th every year and has a history of about 2,500 years.
Qingming is an activity to worship the deceased. In China, ancestor worship is bound up with filial piety. If you do not participate in ancestor worship, you will be regarded as a person who is not filial, a person who forgets his ancestors.
Tomb-sweeping customs during the Qingming Festival, amend the cemetery – serve incense – serve meat – toast – worship – set off firecrackers.
According to custom, people should bring wine, food, fruit, paper money and other items to the cemetery on Qingming Festival, offer food to their relatives in front of the tomb, then burn the joss paper, plant new soil for the tomb and trim it, fold a few fresh green branches and insert it on the tomb.
Afterwards, you can sit around, eat, drink, and fly kites.
Ancestor’s Birthday and Death Remembrance
Commemorating the anniversary of the birth or death of a loved one is like a family gathering for the deceased. You can prepare a relative’s favorite meal, exchange family stories, and burn a small piece of joss paper as a souvenir.
Lunar New Year’s eve
The 30th day of the twelfth lunar month is the last day of the year. While celebrating the festival, we must also miss our deceased ancestors.
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is a folk festival that integrates worshiping gods and ancestors, praying for blessings and warding off evil spirits, celebrating entertainment and eating.
Double Ninth Festival
The Double Ninth Festival is a traditional Chinese folk festival that falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month every year.
In ancient times, folks on the Double Ninth Festival had the custom of climbing high to pray for blessings, worshiping gods and ancestors, and feasting to pray for longevity.
It has been passed down to the present, and connotations such as respect for the elderly have been added.
Many Chinese families keep golden papers at home to burn when commemorating their deceased relatives in their daily lives.
For example, some people burn joss paper on the first and fifteenth day of every lunar month, at family gatherings such as Chinese New Year dinners, or even just after thinking about their ancestors fondly during the day.
There are many different ways to incorporate the burning of gold paper into the rhythm of the year.
It is worth mentioning that we see the largest sales of gold paper in Chinese home stores in the United States during the fifth lunar month (before the Qingming Festival) and the seventh day (before the Chinese New Year) and on the eve of Chinese New Year.
How to use ancestor money?
Most of the ancestor money must be burned with fire.
However, during the funeral of the deceased, the family will also sprinkle joss paper on the road for the ghosts and gods of the road and river to use, so as to prevent them from making trouble for the deceased’s soul. This is known as “road money” in China.
Steps to burn paper money:
- Select the time and place.
When going to the grave, usually burn joss paper after worshiping during the day. When worshiping a distant relative, people burn joss paper after dark at night, and it is best to burn at crossroads.
- Prepare the tools.
Joss paper, lighters, sticks are a must.
It is worth mentioning that in addition to burning joss paper, Chinese people also burn incense when offering sacrifices. Like joss paper, incense is also a way of conveying our inner emotions.
When paying homage to ancestors, three sticks of incense are usually lighted while burning joss paper.
- Drawing a circle with chalk on the ground and burning the paper offering within the circle.
This is quite common in all Chinese cities and villages today.
Due to environmental concerns, contemporary Joss paper burners are now fitted with a special cover which eliminates the spread of burning ashes.
The cover allows enough oxygen in to ensure that all of the offering are completely burned.
- When burning joss paper, be sincere and polite.
Read the name of your relatives or read it in your heart. In this way, you can pass the money to your deceased relatives.
There are some superstitions to follow when burning gold paper. Joss paper is the real gold and silver of gods and ghosts. Don’t just throw the joss paper on the fire, don’t step on the joss paper and burnt ashes, and don’t throw away the useless joss paper. Each of these actions shows disrespect to the ghosts we are trying to please.
There are some more complicated steps. But sincerity is spirit, as long as we truly love and miss our relatives, no matter how much we burn joss paper, it will make sense.
Where is the manufacturer of joss money?
Mibeizhuang Village, Baoding, Hebei, China
It is the world’s largest production and sales center of Joss Paper, and its sales network spreads all over the world. It occupies 90% of the funeral products market in China, and employs 20,000 to 30,000 people.
Therefore, it is known as “China’s largest production base of funeral supplies”. Data shows that the annual output value of the entire Mibeizhuang funeral supplies exceeds 1 billion yuan.
Mibeizhuang Village can be the largest production base of funeral supplies in China, thanks to the “completeness” of its products.
There are more than 10,000 types of funeral products in Mibeizhuang Village. There are more than 500 funeral and funeral products wholesalers in the streets of just over 1 km.
Now Mibeizhuang Village keeps pace with the times. In addition to the common paper houses and paper clothes, there are also various electronic products and luxury goods, iPhone, iPad, iwacth, Gucci Fendi, Chanel, Benz, everything you want can be found here.
According to statistics, Mibeizhuang Village almost monopolized 90% of the global joss paper offering market.
Where to buy joss paper?
Chinatown joss paper shop
Since the first immigrants came to the country, there have been dedicated gold paper shops in America’s Chinatowns. If there is a Chinatown near your home, this is undoubtedly the most convenient way to buy.
There are many Chinese sellers who sell joss paper, gold bars and gold ingots on Amazon, and the prices are not very expensive. The only downside is that the types of joss paper on Amazon are relatively single, and it is difficult to find some exquisite papercrafts, such as paper houses, paper electronics, paper cosmetics and so on.
Jossney was the first website dedicated to selling joss paper. In addition to all kinds of ancestor money, gold bars and gold ingots, you will also find all kinds of exquisite papercrafts. Jossney is undoubtedly the most diverse online shopping sites for joss paper, and it’s affordable.
There are also many Chinese sellers selling joss paper on Alibaba, but they usually only accept wholesale, such as 1000 bundles, 2000 bundles. If you are only buying in small quantities, Alibaba is not your best option.
The custom of joss paper is rich in symbolism and family history, and it is also a great way to put our thoughts on a deceased loved one. Hopefully this guide can provide guidance on burning paper money so you can do better.