For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors

The Chinese Tradition of Paper Offerings


Janet Lee Scott

ISBN : 978-962-209-827-5

History Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies Series (皇家亞洲學會香港研究叢書)

May 2007

352 pages, 6″ x 9″, 64 color illus.

Not for sale in the USA, Canada, or Europe

  • HK$250.00

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. For Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors will appeal to readers interested in anthropology, religion, popular culture, and handcrafts.

Janet Lee Scott has lived in Hong Kong for many years, where she has taught anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University. She is currently an Associate-in-Research at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University.

“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, Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University