Burning of Chinese Paper Money also known as Ghost Money is an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years and one that is held to this day when honoring the ancestors.
Offerings are made to the spirits of the deceased and according to the traditions and superstitions, the properties of the presents that are set on fire will transfer to the afterworld where it can be used by the spirits, in this case money.
Ghost money can be printed to look like money notes, or have simple designs like characters or emblems. It can be hand-made with a variety of materials,
rice paper is quite popular, as is the golden/silver metallic paper.
In keeping up with the times, the tradition of burning Chinese paper money has evolved into the burning of just about any items that can be useful to the spirits, including credit cards and cheques, and you also see life-size paper replicas of everyday items like clothing, TV's, computers, cars, or whatever the most popular "must-have" item happens to be at the time, like mobile phones and iPads.
This tradition is frequently observed during funerals and during the major Chinese holidays when ancestors are revered and remembered, and particularly on
- Ching Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day
- Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival
- Chung Yeung Festival or Autumn Remembrance Day
Burning of Chinese Paper Money: Paper is folded and stacked in mountains, the higher the better
Ching Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day
This is the day reserved specially to pay respects to one's ancestors. On this day, cemeteries accross the land will be crowded with thousands of worshipers carrying incense sticks and offerings of paper money, fruits, foodstuffs and wine.
The ancestors graves are swept clean, weeds removed and stones and ornaments touched up and refreshed.
Special attention must be paid if you will be travelling through any areas where there are cemeteries or burial grounds, specially if using public transportation as the crowds will be quite substantial and delays are guaranteed.
Check out this short clip showing a typical Ching Ming day in Hong Kong and the different offerings being prepared for the ancestors including ghost money, many food and every day items:
When is the Ching Ming Festival?
The Ching Ming Festival is celebrated on the third moon of the Lunar New Year, around March or April on our calendar.
The 2023 festival will be on the 5th of April, 2023. The Ching Ming Festival is a public holiday in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Hungry Ghost Festival - Yue Lan Festival
The seventh month of the Lunar calendar is considered the "Chinese Ghost Month". On this month, the spirits of the deceased are released and they come back to wander off in the living world.
It is said that some spirits may be restless and will have to be appeased, and thus, worshippers will burn paper money and make the usual offerings to make sure they are back in the good graces of their ancestors and any other wandering ghost that may happen to "drop by".
Hungry Ghost Preparations in Sheung Wan - Hollywood Road
The Hungry Ghost Festival marks the middle of the Ghost Month, and offerings and activities will be held particularly on this day.
Activities other than the usual offerings of incense, Chinese paper money and food, include Chinese Opera and the dragon and lion dances with plenty of noise to scare away the evil ghosts, and are held on the streets and in parks and plazas throughout the territory.
The Chiu Chow community in Hong Kong goes all out to celebrate Yue Lan with lively parades and a fantastic festival in Victoria Park and opera performances in a number of venues throughout Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
When is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
Hungry Ghost Festival is on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. This year's Hungry Ghost Festival is on August 30, 2023. The Yue Lan Festival is NOT a public holiday in Hong Kong.
Festival and other event activities are organised by the Chiu Chow Community at Victoria Park including Chinese opera performances and special ceremonies. More details at the HKTB site.
Chung Yeung Festival - Autumn Remembrance Day
Cheung Yeung Festival is very similar to the Ching Ming Festival above, whereby families get together, visit the graves and pay their respects to the ancestors.
In Hong Kong, this day is also a day for hiking and enjoy the cooler weather and the outdoors.
The typical offerings of Chinese paper money and other "essentials" seem to be getting more and more "fashionable", paper electronic gadgets seem quite popular, i.e. iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, etc.
Check out this video with the latest in offerings:
When is the Chung Yeung Festival?Autumn Remembrance Day is on the 9th day of the 9th moon, or in September or October in our calendar.
This year's Chung Yeung Festival is on October 23, 2023. Chung Yeung Festival IS a public holiday in Hong Kong.
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