In China people burn spirit money, incense paper, and paper objects to honor their ancestors.


Share what you know about your late ancestors. Would you burn a paper iPad or rather a roast chicken for your great-great-great uncle?

At funerals, we typically see people putting flowers on graves, but Chinese people have a tradition of burning spirit money, incense paper, and paper objects during funerals and special ancestor holidays.

This ritual is the Chinese people's way of looking after ancestors in their afterlives. They thank and respect their departed relatives for bringing them into the world. The belief is that when they burn the spirit money, paper objects, and incense, the smoke will be sent to the ancestors and become real objects in the afterlife. These objects are usually expensive presents that they could not possess on earth, like money, clothes, and jewelry. The presents are paper cut-outs of handbags, food, toys and even credit cards.

Traditional spirit money, also called Joss paper, is white paper made from coarse bamboo paper, although rice paper is also used. Incense paper is a yellow-colored, fragrant paper with gold foil printed on it. The burning of incense is a regular form of worshipping and a way of showing devotion.

By Eloise Kruger (Whyzz writer)