In China people burn ipads, money, clothes or jewelry made out of paper so their late relatives have a nice afterlife.
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.
Too much smoke
Each year, up to 220,000 tons of joss paper are burned, which is the same as 44 billion sheets of paper. If you stack that many sheets on a pile, you will build a tower of 2700 miles high! The smoke is so much around festival times that it has become a major source of air pollution in urban areas. It creates large quantities of smog and ash, and it may soon be necessary to forbid people from burning joss paper in public places.
Why don’t you ask your parents to tell you more about your ancestors, and what they might have liked as paper offerings?
By Eloise Kruger (Whyzz writer)