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Joss sticks are a type of incense used in many East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, traditionally burned before a Chinese religious image, idol or shrine. They can also be burned in front of a door, or open window as an offering to heaven, or devas. In modern days, joss sticks can be used for any purpose, such as to enhance the smell of a room, or to light fire crackers.
The word "joss" is derived from the Latin deus (god) via Portuguese.
Joss stick burning is an everyday practice in traditional Chinese religion. There are many different types of joss sticks used for different purposes or on different festive days. Many of them are long and thin and are mostly colored yellow, red, and more rarely, black. Thick joss sticks are used for special ceremonies, such as funerals. Spiral joss sticks are also used on a regular basis, which are found hanging above temple ceilings, with burn times that are exceedingly long. In some states, such as Taiwan, Singapore, or Malaysia, where they celebrate the Ghost Festival, large, pillar-like dragon joss sticks are sometimes used.
Cost and quality
The price of joss sticks can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on where the joss sticks were made. Low-quality joss sticks are cheap and can be found anywhere from a gods material shop to a supermarket, and many of the cheap joss sticks are made mechanically with high proportion of fillers such as clay and use perfumes or fragrance oil for smell instead of using organic materials. Some may be harmful to the lungs, produce bad smells, and cause quick blackening on walls when burnt.
High-quality joss sticks from mainland China or Taiwan use natural resins, spices, woods, and herbs. Higher-quality incense also use less added fragrant oils to enhance the smell and instead rely the quality of the main ingredients in the incense mix to be fragrant. The burn time, the stability of the burn, as well as the lack of heat in the falling ashes are all signs of quality in the joss sticks.
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