How to Buy Joss Paper

How to Buy Joss Paper

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This article is part of our Qingming Festival Family Guide. Sign up for our newsletter to receive our best activity, recipe and craft ideas before every Chinese holiday.

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 and Amazon will even deliver joss paper straight to your doorstep.

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


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

Traditional Joss Paper Squares

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.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

Chinese Joss Paper – Large Gold and Silver Foil

Traditional Joss Paper Squares with Large Foil

These sheets are identical in size to the squares above, but feature a larger rectangle of gold or silver foil in the center. There’s no meaningful difference between the two styles, choosing one over the other is just a matter of personal preference.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

300 Piece Joss Paper Collection

300 Piece Joss Paper Collection

These 300 sheets of joss paper in 3 sizes make a complete set that’s appropriate for funerals, ancestor birthdays and holidays like the Qingming Festival and the Hungry Ghost Festival. The collection includes small (4.5″ x 5.5″), medium (5.5″ x 6″) and large (6″ x 8″) sheets.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com


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 10,000 to 1,000,000 dollars to help an ancestor purchase services, pay off the God of Death or escape punishment.

Joss Paper Money – U.S. Dollar

Joss Paper Money - U.S. Dollars

These Hell Bank Notes resemble the U.S Dollar. Each bill comes in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 5,000 or 10,000 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.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

Joss Paper Money – Chinese Yuan

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.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

Joss Paper Money – Hong Kong Dollar

Joss Paper Money - Hong Kong Dollar

These Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble the Hong Kong Dollar, each of the 3 included designs is decorated with an image of the Jade Emperor in a 100, 500 or 1000 dollar denomination.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

Joss Paper Money – Bank of Heaven and Earth

Joss Paper Money - Bank of Heaven and Earth

These Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble currency from the traditional “Bank of Heaven and Earth,” each of the 6 included designs is decorated with an image of the Jade Emperor and auspicious symbols like gold ingots, dragons and peonies.

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Joss Paper Money – Bank of Heaven and Earth – Small

Joss Paper Money - Bank of Heaven and Earth - Small

These Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble currency from the traditional “Bank of Heaven and Earth,” each of the 5 included designs is decorated with an image of the Jade Emperor in a 20, 50, 100, 500 or 1000 dollar denomination.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

300 Piece Joss Paper Money Collection

300 Piece Joss Paper Money Collection

This 300 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.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com


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 – Male

Joss Paper Crafts

This box of essentials is designed to provide a male family member with everything needed in the afterlife, including a mobile phone, wallet, credit card, glasses, a watch, a lighter and belt.

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Joss Paper Crafts – Female

Joss Paper Crafts

This box of essentials is designed to provide a female family member with everything needed in the afterlife, including a watch, jade bracelet, gold bracelet, lighter, necklace and ring.

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Joss Paper Crafts – Gold Ingots

Joss Paper Crafts

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.

» Read Reviews and Buy at Amazon.com

HT: Photo by Prafulla.

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