In Depth of Joss Paper and Paper Objects

Posted by Bee Kuan:

Burning the joss papers

Joss Paper Burning                                                                                                                                                                 Photo Credit: Image by Roger Price                                                                                                                                            Link:

According to Chinese beliefs, the deceased will enter the Underworld to be judged before being sent to Heaven or to receive punishment in the underworld or to be reincarnated.

  • What is joss paper?

Joss paper or spirit money, are sheets of paper that are burnt in traditional Chinese deity and ancestor worship ceremonies and in funerals.

  • Why burn joss paper?

It is said that burning spirit money is equivalent to making advance deposits into an afterlife bank account that the deceased can access in Heaven.

Joss paper is also burnt by living relatives as a tribute to the King of Hades to request for a shorter stay or to escape punishment on behalf of the deceased.

Joss paper is an essential item. In fact, more is preferred as the deceased uses this money to pay down the remainder of his debt to be able to obtain a body and fate to pursue his karmic journey.


joss paper

Traditional joss paper or spirit money                                                                                                                                        Photo credit: Image by hjw223                                                                                                                                                    Link:

paper gold ingot

Joss paper shaped into gold ingots                                                                                                                                             Photo credit: Image by 世書 名付                                                                                                                                                Link:

hell bank notes

Modern spirit money in the form of bank notes                                                                                                                        Photo credit: Image by David Bote Estrada                                                                                                                                Link:

  • What is paper paraphernalia?

Paper objects that help in the ancestors’ move include paper passports, flight and rail tickets which can be paid using paper credit cards.

There are also entertainment items like TV, radio and even iPhone nowadays.

Paper clothings, jewellery, accessories, cars with a chauffeur, lavish villas and luxury food items like bird’s nest and liquor are more traditional offerings in the past.

  • Why burn paper objects?

Living relatives believe in showering the deceased with luxury items in the afterlife to appease them and accumulate merit.


paper clothings

Paper clothings                                                                                                                                                                      Photo credit: Image by Jorge Lascar                                                                                                                                       Link:


A dog for the deceased in the afterlife                                                                                                                                        Photo credit: Image by Richard                                                                                                                                               Link:

paper iphone

Paper iPhone                                                                                                                                                                Photo credit: Image by Alper Cugun                                                                                                                           Link:


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