For Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors: The Chinese Tradition of Paper Offerings

Paperback | June 15, 2007

byJanet Lee Scott

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Offerings of various kinds - food, incense, paper money, and figures - have been central to Chinese culture for millennia, and as a public, visual display of spiritual belief, they are still evident today in China and in Chinatowns around the world. Using Hong Kong as a case study, Janet Scott looks at paper offerings from every conceivable angle - how they are made, sold, and used. Her comprehensive investigation touches on virtually every aspect of Chinese popular religion as it explores the many forms of these intricate objects, their manufacture, their significance, and their importance in rituals to honor gods, care for ancestors, and contend with ghosts.

Throughout For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors, paper offerings are presented as a vibrant and living tradition expressing worshippers' respect and gratitude for the gods, as well as love and concern for departed family members. Ranging from fake paper money to paper furniture, servant dolls, cigarettes, and toiletries - all multihued and artfully constructed - paper offerings are intended to provide for the needs of those in the spirit world.

Readers are introduced to the variety of paper offerings and their uses in worship, in assisting worshippers with personal difficulties, and in rituals directed to gods, ghosts, and ancestors. We learn of the manufacture and sale of paper goods, life in paper shops, the training of those who make paper offerings, and the symbolic and artistic dimensions of the objects. Finally, the book considers the survival of this traditional craft, the importance of flexibility and innovation, and the role of compassion and filial piety in the use of paper offerings.

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From the Publisher

Offerings of various kinds - food, incense, paper money, and figures - have been central to Chinese culture for millennia, and as a public, visual display of spiritual belief, they are still evident today in China and in Chinatowns around the world. Using Hong Kong as a case study, Janet Scott looks at paper offerings from every concei...

Janet Lee Scott has taught anthropology and sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University. She is currently an associate in-research at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University.

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For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors: The Chinese Tradition of Paper Offerings
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Kobo ebook|May 1 2007

$22.59 online$29.34list price(save 23%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9.02 × 6.13 × 0.76 inPublished:June 15, 2007Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295987189

ISBN - 13:9780295987187

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. The Practices of Paper Burning2. Individual Worship and Personal Concerns3. Gratitude to the Gods, Charity for the Ghosts4. Remembering the Ancestors5. The World of Shops and Customers6. Learning the Trade, Learning to Craft7. Colors, Sounds, and Symbols: The Making of an Auspicious Object8. Customers and Customs9. Life in PaperNotesGlossaryReferences CitedIndex

Editorial Reviews

Offerings of various kinds - food, incense, paper money, and figures - have been central to Chinese culture for millennia, and as a public, visual display of spiritual belief, they are still evident today in China and in Chinatowns around the world. Using Hong Kong as a case study, Janet Scott looks at paper offerings from every conceivable angle - how they are made, sold, and used. Her comprehensive investigation touches on virtually every aspect of Chinese popular religion as it explores the many forms of these intricate objects, their manufacture, their significance, and their importance in rituals to honor gods, care for ancestors, and contend with ghosts.Throughout For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors, paper offerings are presented as a vibrant and living tradition expressing worshippers' respect and gratitude for the gods, as well as love and concern for departed family members. Ranging from fake paper money to paper furniture, servant dolls, cigarettes, and toiletries - all multihued and artfully constructed - paper offerings are intended to provide for the needs of those in the spirit world.Readers are introduced to the variety of paper offerings and their uses in worship, in assisting worshippers with personal difficulties, and in rituals directed to gods, ghosts, and ancestors. We learn of the manufacture and sale of paper goods, life in paper shops, the training of those who make paper offerings, and the symbolic and artistic dimensions of the objects. Finally, the book considers the survival of this traditional craft, the importance of flexibility and innovation, and the role of compassion and filial piety in the use of paper offerings.This is a book that all specialists on Chinese religion, arts, and material culture need to read. For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors is an excellent source for teaching, both undergraduate and graduate. Scott invested years of research into this project and is the world's leading expert on Chinese paper arts. - James L. Watson, Harvard University