I enjoy religious offerings in China. In contrast, the western practice of collection plates in church have little beauty compared with the candles, incense and food offerings in Buddhist and Daoist temples.
|A Candle inside an Incense Burner at Putoshan Island temple|
The incense burners outside the altars are big, with a pile of fragrant ashes from all the prior burnings. There is either a oil lamp outside the incense burner or a candle inside the burner to help people light their offerings for prayer.
People light their incense or joss sticks, and then bow a prayer in all 4 directions, then put the sticks in the incense burner.
I saw Once I monks carefully shoveling out the ashes into a wheelbarrow. I wondered what use the ash has - compost? Even after burning it is still fragrant.
|Baskets at Putuoshan holding the paper coverings of incense sticks|
Things like the baskets of incense wrapping papers or a pile of used candles in a shed on the grounds of the temple show me the scale of use - the hundreds of people who come to the temple to pray and to petition. Our friend Li, who traveled with us to Putoshan Island said that you pray to be relieved of your desire for things and actions.
|Unusual offering of money at Guanyin shrine in Ayuang Temple, Ningbo|
|closer look - why set the coins on end?|