Over the years, we have seen many viewpoints on the practices of burning joss papers. Other than religion groups who have solid knowledge on this practices , many general public’s may not truly appreciate these practices. We hope with this article, more people will understand this practices, and misconceptions of it.
Please READ this Disclaimer first: This articles is written for more people to understand this part of religion practices and DO NOT represent all different sect.【法门】as each has different individual practice【各门各法】. Please do not use our prospective to compare with other sects.
In general there are three major category of joss paper – Gold, Silver and Other.
Gold joss Paper
This is usually uses for deities. The common print on such gold paper is 3 characters in form on red lines.
There are another type of gold joss papers on an orange background without any printing, These are usually used for ancestor praying.
Silver joss paper
This type of joss paper is used either for hell deities or ancestors prayers.
Other type of Joss Paper
This is a huge category. This group of papers have very specify purposes and usually used by people who has the knowledge in the religion ceremony which is performed. The list below are the very common ones and are not all inclusive.
- Gui Ren Fu 【贵人符】- a type of paper used in order to receive good benefactors into your life
- Bu Yun Qian 【补运钱】- This set of paper is used to remove one’s bad luck and enhance good merits
The above two are common type of “Other” joss papers seen by general public, but it has a specify way to use them too.
Other than the above common paper, there are joss papers used for praying to the temple/deities’ armies.
The next sub-category to this “Other type of joss papers” are those used in ancestors prayer. The common one are –
- Wang Shen Qian 【往生钱】
- Xi Qian 【溪钱】- This has become very controversy due to how some believers use this.
Why is there the needs of using Joss paper
Different sect has different beliefs and practices. Generally joss paper usage can be classify into 3 major usage.
In Deities’ prayer –
Gold / Silver (Hell deities) joss paper is used as offering for deities, to use them in helping the devotee in time of needs in this earthly regimes. Deities do not keep these gold/silver and compare which devotee give more.
Other specify type of papers are use for specify purposes in prayer.
Offering to wondering spirits –
Most commonly seen during the seventh month prayer. These offering are given to the wondering spirits whom do not have another descendent to pray to them. It is a form of giving to the wondering spirits.
In ancestor worshipping –
We believe our departed ancestors, part of the soul will undergoes reincarnation but a part of the soul will remain behind. Just like the living, they need to use daily necessities and money. This is why during the Qingming festival the decedents will go to the grave/columbarium to clean the grave, bring food to pray and bure offerings.
Practices and misconception
1. All prayer items (example: Huat Kueh, lantern, lucky charms, amulets) need to be burn after prayer or end of the year.
This depends largely on the purpose of the items. Usually food items are not burn with joss paper.
As for lantern and lucky charms, some believe in sending them off during the date where the devotee send their deity back to haven. If you practise this, please ensure the items do not contains plastics or any material which are not suppose to burn in the open.
As for amulets, please seek advice from the temple/place you obtain them from.
Joss paper burner is not a rubbish bin. Please keep other items away so that it can function as intended. If the burner is wet and contain other non burnable items, It will create more smoke.
2. Burning of large quantity in smaller size burner
If you decide that there is a need to burn larger quantity, please do it with patient. Do not chuck in large bundle of joss paper into the burner at once. This will cause
- Incomplete burning that causes smoke,
- A form of disrespect to the deities or other beings, (Do you like to receive torn money?) and
- Annoyance to other non believers,
3. Burning of joss paper or effigy with plastic packaging.
Please remove the plastic packaging before burning, When the plastic melts, it will emit harmful substance. Other than that, it will coat your offering with melted plastic and damage the offerings. Back to the same question – Do you like to receive damage items or melted money?
4. XiQian 【溪钱】has to be thrown into the air
This has been a controversy over the years. Our beliefs, only burnt joss paper, the wondering spirits will received. By throwing them into the air, the wondering spirits can only see but not receive. Of cause, like our disclaimer, there are different beliefs and practices.
5.Food Offerings used during Hungry Ghost Month cannot be eaten nor cleared.
There is 2 aspects to this. –
- Food items that are place on the ground for prayer
For such item, it will be unhygienic for human consumption. After burning the joss paper, please notify the wondering spirits that you are clearing up the offerings. This shows respect to both the wondering spirits and the environment,
Please Note: There is another type of prayer which food, tea and wine are left behind. There is a specific reason and such prayer is not the same as 7th Month offerings, Both believers and non believers, please leave such offerings alone. Such offering usually should not be cleared until all joss sticks, joss paper completely burn finished.
- 7th Month Prayer with food on a table set-up outside one’s home
This type of 7th month prayer is know as PohToh or “Pudu” 【普渡】This type of prayer usually has more food items set-up on a table. Such items can be consume after the prayer.
Same things , you need to inform the wondering spirits that the prayer is coming to an end, inform them to collect the joss paper and you will clear the table.
Only consume the food after you clear the table. Do not start eating before clearing.