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The Chinese burn joss paper offerings to send ancestors money and material goods in the afterlife. Consequently, you’re likely to see joss paper being burned at funerals, on ancestor birthdays and during important holidays like the Qingming Festival and the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The basic notion behind burning joss paper is that an offering is conveyed into the spirit world through the fire’s smoke. There’s really no coherent theology behind the practice — all you really need is the paper items, a pot or urn to burn them in and the time for reflection. Taking time to care for ancestors in the afterlife ultimately reflects the value the Chinese place on filial piety and respect for one’s elders and ancestors.

You’ll find three common types of joss paper for sale. First are stacks of coarse bamboo paper that are folded to resemble traditional gold ingots. Next is “spirit money” that resembles actual legal tender currency in various denominations. And finally there are paper crafts in the form of household luxuries like shoes, clothing and jewelry.

Arguably the most famous place to buy joss paper is in Hong Kong, where there’s an entire district in Sheung Wan dedicated to these types of goods. However, American Chinatowns will have at least one dedicated joss paper store.

Here is how to shop for the three most common types of joss paper.


1. Joss Paper Squares

The most traditional style of joss paper is made from sheets of coarse bamboo paper, each decorated with a square of gold or silver foil to represent money. It’s most common to fold this joss paper into the shape of the traditional gold ingots used as currency in ancient China.

Chinese Joss Paper – Gold and Silver Foil



This is the most common kind of traditional joss paper, 5.5″ x 6″ sheets of bamboo paper decorated with a small gold or silver square in the center. Beautiful as is, or folded into the shape of gold ingots.





Chinese Joss Paper – Large Gold Foil



These sheets are bamboo paper decorated with a full gold. There meaning of this joss paper are blessing family safe and prosperous fortune.






2. Joss Paper Money

The Chinese joss paper “spirit money” known as Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble legal tender currency from various countries. They come in outrageous denominations from 10 to 10,000,000,000,000 (10 quadrillion) dollars to help an ancestor purchase services, pay off the God of Death or escape punishment.

Joss Paper Money – U.S. Dollar


These Hell Bank Notes resemble the U.S Dollar. Each bill comes in 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 5,000, 10,000 or 10 million denominations with an image of the Jade Emperor replacing Lincoln, Hamilton or Franklin. They’re a fitting way to memorialize family members who spent their lives in America.




Joss Paper Money – Chinese Yuan



These Hell Bank Notes resemble the Chinese Yuan. Each bill comes in 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 Yuan denominations. Use these bills for family members who would be used to spending Chinese currency.





Joss Paper Money – Bank of Heaven and Earth – Giant



These Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble currency from the traditional “Bank of Heaven and Earth,” each of the 3 included designs is decorated with an image of the Jade Emperor in a largest value 0f 10,000,000,000,000,000 (10 quadrillion) dollar denomination.




Joss Paper Money – Bank of Heaven and Earth – High Grade with Gold Foil

Joss-Paper|Hell Bank Note Combo-Set4b



These Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble currency from the traditional “Bank of Heaven and Earth,” each of the 4 included designs is decorated with an image of the Jade Emperor and gold foil in a 20, 50, 100, or 1000 million dollar denomination.





240 Pieces Joss Paper Money Collection




This 240 piece collection is appropriate for funerals, ancestor birthdays and holidays like the Qingming Festival and the Hungry Ghost Festival. The set includes bills resembling the U.S. Dollar, the Chinese Yuan and the Hong Kong Dollar.



3. Joss Paper Crafts

Contemporary joss paper sets are intended to send ancestors the luxuries they lacked while living. That’s why you’ll see joss paper houses, cars, servants, airplane tickets and flat-screen TVs. No extravagance is too large.

Joss Paper Crafts – Gold Ingots

joss papaer gold ingot yuanbao1


These joss paper ingots are designed to resemble the traditional gold currency used in old China and meant to convey wealth and good fortune to the deceased.





Joss Paper Crafts – Paper Wheel Chair



This paper wheel chair is designed to provide a convenient to senior or disabled in the afterlife.





HT: Photo by Catryne.

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