Adventures in East Asia

Family Ancestor Offerings

My family has an altar in its own building towards the top of Ting Kok Village. Its a small place about eight by twenty foot, and is shared between my father and his two brothers.


It in fact used to be my late grandparent's home, accessible via alleyways giving access to different homes and flats pretty much like terraced houses, but smaller and closer together.

My grandparents moved out approximately a decade ago when their three sons (my father and his brothers) pooled their money together and built a new three storey house block between them, much like my parents have in the house we currently stay at.

After they moved out to the newer and more spacious home, the old place was converted into an altar to enable respects to be paid to our ancestors. Seeing it now, its hard to imagine a family living there and although I don't remember anything now, its where we stayed when my family visited Hong Kong decades ago.

There are often different occasions around the year for paying respects, but since all of us live in the UK, the altar is obviously only used when visiting Hong Kong, particularly during Chinese New Year.

Today (Saturday 7th February, which is actually January 13th in the Chinese calendar) is a major day my parents tell me, so we go up to the altar to pray.

My parents clear out some of the things that are placed at the altar from previous visits. Its a practical job, since its to do with keeping the place clean and throwing away mouldy food.


New food is then placed to make sure our ancestors are well fed. It can be anything apparently, but I've most often seen things like oranges and other fruit and different Chinese buns. Then some Chinese tea and rice wine is poured into little cups for our grandparents.

During this tradition, we also light some incense sticks, which need to be in groups of three, bow three times at the altar and stand these in different bowls at the altar itself, in a pot just inside the doorway, and on the wall on either side of the entrance.

Our little furnace is then prepared with a fire and we burn paper offerings to send to our ancestors. I've seen many types of offerings, especially recent designs such as for mobile phones, but typically you can get items which you think your ancestors will want and need. We brought along lots of paper money, clothes and other basic items.


After these offerings are all burnt and sent on their way, we simply clear up and lightly secure the altar.


This entry posted in : Culture. New Territories.

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