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Joss paper, also known as incense papers, are
papercraft Paper models, also called card models or papercraft, are models constructed mainly from sheets of heavy paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically and/or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, Textile ...

papercraft
s or sheets of paper made into burnt offerings common in
Chinese ancestral worship Chinese ancestor worship or Chinese ancestor veneration, also called the Chinese patriarchal religion, is an aspect of the Chinese traditional religion which revolves around the ritual celebration of the deified ancestors and tutelary deities ...
(such as the
veneration of the deceased family members and relatives
veneration of the deceased family members and relatives
on holidays and special occasions). Worship of
Deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel An angel is a supernatural ...
in
Chinese folk religion Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion, is a general term covering a range of traditional religious practices of Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the ...
also uses a similar type of joss paper. Joss paper, as well as other
papier-mâché papier-mâché masks, Haiti Papier-mâché (, ; , literally "paper-mash") is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive, wallp ...
items, are also burned or buried in various Asian funerals, "to ensure that the spirit of the deceased has sufficient needs in the
afterlife The afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the world to come) is an existence in which the essential part of an individual's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group a ...

afterlife
." In Taiwan alone, the annual revenue of temples received from burning joss paper was US$400 million (NT$13 billion) as of 2014.


Traditional

Joss paper is traditionally made from coarse
bamboo Bamboos are a diverse group of evergreen In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in th ...

bamboo
paper, which feels handmade with many variances and imperfections, although
rice paper Rice paper is a product made of paper-like materials from East Asia made from different plants. These include: *''Thin peeled dried pith of Tetrapanax papyrifer'': A sheet-like "paper" material was used extensively in late 19th century Guangdong ...

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. The three main types of spirit money are cash (also known as copper), silver and gold. Cash monies are given to newly deceased spirits and spirits of the unknown. Golden Joss papers (jin) are mostly offered to the Deities such as the
Jade Emperor The Jade Emperor ( or , ') in Chinese culture Chinese culture () is one of the world's oldest cultures, originating thousands of years ago. The culture prevails across a large geographical region in East Asia East Asia is the eastern ...
. Silver Joss paper (ying) is given exclusively to ancestral spirits as well as other spirits. These distinctions between the three categories of spirit money must be followed precisely to avoid confusing or insulting the spirits.


Contemporary

More contemporary or westernized varieties of Joss paper include
paper currency A banknote (often known as a bill (in the US and Canada), paper money, or simply a note) is a type of negotiable promissory note A promissory note, sometimes referred to as a note payable, is a legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a l ...
,
credit card #REDIRECT Credit card A credit card is a payment card issued to users (cardholders) to enable the cardholder to pay a merchant for goods and services based on the cardholder's promise to the card issuer to pay them for the amounts plus the ...

credit card
s, cheques, as well as
papier-mâché papier-mâché masks, Haiti Papier-mâché (, ; , literally "paper-mash") is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive, wallp ...
clothes, houses, cars, toiletries, electronics and servants (together known as Zhizha in Mandarin ''zhǐzhā'' :zh:紙紮). The designs on paper items vary from the very simple to very elaborate (with custom artwork and names). In 2006, in response to the burning of ''"messy sacrificial items"'', such as paper cars, houses, and pills, Dou Yupei, the PRC deputy minister for civil affairs, announced that the ministry intended to ban at least the more extreme forms of joss paper.


"Hell Bank Notes"

Much like the traditional gold and silver paper, Hell Bank Notes serve as the official currency for the afterlife. Living relatives offer them to dead ancestors by burning (or placing them in coffins in the case of funerals) the bank notes as a bribe to Yanluo for a shorter stay or to escape punishment, or for the ancestors themselves to use in spending on lavish items in the afterlife. The word "hell" may have been derived from: #The preaching of
Christian missionaries A Christian mission is an organized effort to spread Christianity to new converts. Missions involve sending individuals and groups across boundaries, most commonly geographical boundaries, to carry on evangelism or other activities, such as edu ...
, who told the Chinese that non-Christians and their ancestors would go to hell when they died as non-believer. #A translation of the word "hell" that matches the pre-existing Chinese concept of "underworld realm," which in
Taoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of c ...
cosmology had been considered the one of the destinations on the journey of
rebirth Rebirth may refer to: Religion * Reincarnation, the migration of a deceased person's spirit or consciousness to a newborn body ** Rebirth (Buddhism), Rebirth in Buddhism ** Reincarnation#Hinduism, Rebirth in Hinduism * Regeneration (theology), a ...
of every soul of the dead regardless of his or her virtue during life. Hell Bank Notes are also known for their enormous denominations ranging from $10,000 to $5,000,000,000. The bills almost always feature an image of the
Yanluo Wang Yanluo Wang or Yamla () is a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese religion and Taoism, and the one of official judge in Youdu, the Chinese mythology, underworld. The name Yanluo is a shortened Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit term Yama ...
on the front and the "headquarters" of the Hell Bank on the back. Another common feature is the signatures of both the Yanluo Wang and the Judges of Underworld, both of whom apparently also serve as the Hell bank's governor and deputy governor (as featured on the back).


Practice In North America

The practice of burning Joss paper also found home in North America. As of 2021, Amazon, the biggest online market, has more than 200 Joss paper items on sale; YouTube, among the biggest video sharing sites, has over 100 tutorials on how to burn Ancestor Money, created mostly by non-Asians. The practice's international popularity can be explained by its easily understood meaning. The newfound popularity also changed the form of the practice. It is no longer necessarily focussed on one's own ancestors or religious bonds; people may use it to remember any loved ones, including those they never knew. For example, in 2021 people in Livingston, New Jersey burned Joss paper during a vigil to remember shooting victims in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado that year. The practice may also now extend beyond private activity and be conducted in public group gatherings, because immigrants' ancestor bury sites are too far away to visit and group gatherings provide communal mental support.


Use

Spirit money is most often used for venerating those departed but has also been known to be used for other purposes such as a gift from a groom's family to the bride's ancestors. Spirit money has been said to have been given for the purpose of enabling their deceased family members to have all they will need or want in the afterlife. It has also been noted that these offerings have been given as a bribe to
Yanluo Wang Yanluo Wang or Yamla () is a deity in Chinese folk religion, Chinese religion and Taoism, and the one of official judge in Youdu, the Chinese mythology, underworld. The name Yanluo is a shortened Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit term Yama ...
to hold their ancestors for a shorter period of time. Venerating the ancestors is based on the belief that the spirits of the dead continue to dwell in the natural world and have the power to influence the fortune and fate of the living. The goal of ancestor worship is to ensure the ancestor's continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living and sometimes to ask for special favours or assistance. Rituals of ancestor worship most commonly consist of offerings to the deceased to provide for their welfare in the afterlife which is envisioned to be similar to the earthly life. The burning of spirit money enables the ancestor to purchase luxuries and necessities needed for a comfortable afterlife. Many temples have large furnaces outside the main gate to burn joss paper. Folding the paper is an essential part of the burning ceremony as it distinguishes joss paper from actual money; and, it provides good luck for those who fold it. 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. Every fifteen days business owners in Taiwan burn spirit money in red
brazier A brazier () is a container used to burn charcoal or soil, and firing it (circa 1890) Charcoal is a lightweight black carbon Carbon (from la, carbo "coal") is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol C and atomic num ...
s and set out offering tables on the sidewalk for both gods and ghosts. This coincides with an ancient calendrical system divided into twenty-four fifteen-day periods. A simplified modern Chinese offering is made by drawing a circle with chalk on the sidewalk or the pavement between residential buildings 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. Spirit money is most commonly burned, but may also be offered by being held into the wind or placed into the deceased's coffin at funeral ceremonies. Depending on the type and status of the deity being worshiped, paper with metal foil or with ink seals of various sizes may be burned. Different regions of the world have different preferences for the type of Joss paper that is used. For instance, Hell Bank Notes are commonly found in regions where Cantonese populations dominate but are rarely seen or used in places such as
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
or
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), (RAEM) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. Lond ...

Macau
, which use "gold paper". The Joss paper is folded in half, or bought pre-folded into the shape of gold ingots before being burned in an earthenware pot or a specially built
chimney A chimney is an architectural ventilation structure made of masonry, clay or metal that isolates hot toxic exhaust gas Exhaust gas or flue gas Flue gas is the gas exiting to the atmosphere via a flue, which is a pipe or channel for c ...

chimney
. Joss paper burning is usually the last performed act in Chinese deity or ancestor worship ceremonies. The papers may also be folded and stacked into elaborate
pagoda A pagoda is an Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the continental landm ...

pagoda
s or
lotuses
lotuses
. In
Taoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of c ...
rituals, the practice of offering joss paper to deities or ancestors is an essential part of the worship. Some
Chinese Buddhist Chinese Buddhism or Han Buddhism has shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas including art, politics, Chinese literature, literature, Chinese philosophy, philosophy, Chinese medicine, medicine and material culture. The translation o ...
temples, such as
Singapore Buddhist Lodge
Singapore Buddhist Lodge
in
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
, have discouraged offering of joss papers during ancestral worship in their ancestral tablet hall out of concern for the environmental pollution.


Health impact

Metal contents analysis of ash samples shows that joss paper burning emits a lot of toxic components causing health risks. Studies showed that there is a significant amount of
heavy metals upright=1.2, Crystals of osmium, a heavy metal nearly twice as dense as lead">lead.html" ;"title="osmium, a heavy metal nearly twice as dense as lead">osmium, a heavy metal nearly twice as dense as lead Heavy metals are generally defined as ...
in the dust fume and bottom ash in order Al < Fe < Mn < Cu < Pb < Zn < Cd. Another study found that burning gold and silver joss papers during festivals can contribute to Parkinson's disease among the elderly and slow child development. Burning of joss paper may also contributes to a condition called metal fume fever. Certain provinces in China have banned the burning of ghost paper out of concern for the air pollution it causes.To Improve Air Quality, Harbin Bans Burning Ghost Money
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See also

*
Chinese ancestral worship Chinese ancestor worship or Chinese ancestor veneration, also called the Chinese patriarchal religion, is an aspect of the Chinese traditional religion which revolves around the ritual celebration of the deified ancestors and tutelary deities ...
*
Qingming Festival The Qingming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English (sometimes also called Chinese Memorial Day or Ancestors' Day), is a List of observances set by the Chinese calendar, traditional Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese of ...
*
Zhong Yuan Festival The Ghost Festival, also known as the Zhongyuan Festival (traditional Chinese Traditional Chinese characters are one type of standard Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a wr ...
*
Ancestral tablet A spirit tablet, memorial tablet, or ancestral tablet, is a placard A placard is a notice installed in a public place, like a small :wikt:card, card, Signage, sign, or :wikt:plaque, plaque. It can be attached to or hung from a vehicle or buildin ...
*
Ancestral temple An ancestral shrine, hall or temple ( or , Vietnamese: ''Nhà thờ họ''), also called lineage temple, is a temple dedicated to deified Apotheosis (, from gr, ἀποθεόω/ἀποθεῶ, label=none, link=no, lit='to deify', translitera ...
*
Chinese lineage associations Chinese lineage associations, also kinship or ancestral associations ( or ), are a type of social relationship institutions found in Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
&
Kongsi Kongsi () is a Hokkien transcription term meaning "company", especially businesses which have been Incorporation (business), incorporated. However, the word has other meanings under different historical contexts. ''Kongsi'' were most commonly known ...
* Zhizha & Religious goods store *
Papier-mache offering shops in Hong Kong Traditional papier-mâché offering shops in Hong Kong sell papier-mâché offering items for sacred purposes and for festival-celebration purposes, the popularity has grown since the 1940s. Nowadays, the demand of papier sacred products is reducin ...
* Chinese burial money *
Hell money Hell banknotes in Thailand resembling Thai_Baht.html"_;"title="United_States_Dollar,_and_Thai_Baht">United_States_Dollar,_and_Thai_Baht_banknotes Image:Burning-money-and-yuanbao-at-the-cemetery-3249.JPG.html" ;"title="Thai_Baht_banknotes.html" ;"t ...


References

* Adler, J. (2002). Chinese Religious Traditions. London: Laurence King Publishing, Ltd. * Asian Joss Paper: Rubber Trouble. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://rubbertrouble.com/joss.php * Burning of Joss Paper. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from https://web.archive.org/web/20070713050534/http://app.nea.gov.sg/cms/htdocs/article.asp?pid=720 * Feuchtwang, S. (2001). Popular Religion in China. Surrey: Curzon Press. * Gates, H. (1987, July). Money for the Gods. Modern China, 13(3), 259-277. Retrieved from JSTOR database. * Hell bank notes - Library - Collection - Studio - Collectors Software. Retrieved October 23, 2008 fro


Joss Paper
Retrieved October 24, 2008 * Seaman, G. (1982 Fall). Spirit Money: An Interpretation. Journal of Chinese Religions. * Thompson, L. (1989). Chinese Religion. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company. {{DEFAULTSORT:Joss Paper Bamboo Banknotes of China Practices in Chinese folk religion Chinese inventions Death customs Exonumia Fire in religion Papermaking in China Chinese numismatic charms