A few months ago we published an article about “The House on Won”, a Chinese restaurant that was a local favorite in East Meadow, NY. The story was extremely touching as it was based on an email that Richard Brody (aka Mee Rich Yee) from Ian Wen, the grandson of the owner of the establishment. Ian wrote of how much the restaurant meant to his family, how proud they were of it, and how much they were thrilled to hear that former customers felt so warmly towards the place. They exchanged emails, and then Ian put Richard in touch with his father, Louis Wen who, via Ian, sent a very heart warming story. He wrote of being “flabbergasted and delighted that my son and nephew dug up your articles about our restaurant of half a century ago!”. To read the entire letter, and our article, click here.
After the Chinese Quest published, with Mr. Wen’s permission, his letter, he paid the ultimate homage to his late Father. It is a Chinese tradition at funerals to burn things such as (paper) money, papier-mâché cars, houses, etc., to ensure that the spirit of the deceased has lots of good things in the afterlife. The paper is referred to as Joss paper.
Joss paper is traditionally made from coarse bamboo paper, although rice paper is also commonly used. Traditional joss is cut into individual squares or rectangles. Each square of paper has either a thin piece of square foil glued to its centre or it may be endorsed with a red ink seal from a traditional Chinese seal. The color of the paper is white. White color representing mourning. The square foil normally has a golden or silver metal shade and hence representing wealth or money, leading to the name ghost or spirit money.
When burning the joss paper, the sheets are treated as real money. They are not casually tossed into the fire, but instead placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Alternatively in some customs, each joss paper sheet may be folded in a specific way before being tossed into the fire. This practice is an extension of the belief that burning real money brings bad luck.
In other words, the burning of the paper is a way to remember, respect, and to pay homage, to the deceased.
We were sent, via Richard, the following two photographs of Mr. Wen, burning a copy of our article that The Chinese Quest published on his “Memories of the House of Won“, because they were so appreciative, and it is the ultimate homage honoring his father.
I wish The Chinese Quest was around to have dined at the “House of Won” and met the Wen family. His memories are now our memories, and we pay our honor, and homage, to the Wen Family, and the House of Won.
Very humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)