All posts by Reluctant Bodhisattva

Trading Card Tuesday

Two weeks ago last Tuesday, we sallied forth into the world to distribute our Hungry Ghost Trading Cards. We did not want to be overly ambitious our first time out, so only a few destinations were planned.

We had high hopes that our cards would attract attention.

They did.

But not exactly the kind of attention we expected.

But I am getting ahead of myself, so I will backup a bit and tell the story properly.

I have wanted to create trading cards for years. But, the printing was always too expensive. Recently, however, I figured out that they could be printed as 5×7 postcards then cut into quarters to yield four trading cards per postcard.

Seemed easy enough having done a fair number of postcards and other similar print materials in the past. So, we decided to use our Hungry Ghost Festival project to field test our very own collection of unique trading cards.

The Hungry Ghost Trading Cards were specifically designed to promote this website as well as our growing catalog of esoteric electronic books available in the iTunes Bookstore including The Hungry Ghost, Hungry Ghost Stories and the Hungry Ghost Guide.

We had the idea that we could leave a stack of them at places where people leave business cards, and they would be so attractive that everyone who saw one would take one home.

We created nifty joss paper decorated card holders to pin to bulletin boards. Each card holder was stuffed with nine trading cards. We planned on six stops that Tuesday morning. Stops 1 through 3 went as planned.

Stop 4  was a coffee shop in one of the more “hip” parts of town.

The posting of the cards in the holder happened in a bit of a clandestine fashion as it seemed to just suddenly appear out of nowhere pinned on the wall right above the sugar and cream bar.


Within minutes, one of the baristas spotted the card holder, walking up to it with interest. The interest instantly morphed into disgust. “How terrible. Where did this come from?” A co-worker approached, mystified but not really upset.

“Did YOU put this here? Who put this here? Should I take it down?” The co-worker made some remark about a ghost and in an instant, the card holder and all nine trading cards were taken down and disappeared around the coffee bar.

It occurred to me then just how personal all this is – the whole concept of the hungry ghost, or even just the notion of ghosts themselves. Ghosts are, after all,  dead people.

Most people would rather not think of death. Especially in mainstream America… where death is a necessary evil that one contends with only when no one else will, the business of the funeral, the cemetery, the metaphoric wiping of the hands as one turns and walks away.

Hungry Ghost Month is not about getting the job done. It is about honoring the lives and deaths of those who lived before us and among us.

It is about us.

And that it is mighty personal.

Buying Joss Paper in Houston, Texas

The Hungry Ghost Festival is upon us. Joss supplies are a must to celebrate properly.  If you still haven’t purchased your joss supplies, last minute shoppers in Houston may want to try these locations. It seems that  joss supplies tend to be on aisles located near the sides of the store.


Hong Kong Food Market
11205 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77072
(281) 575-7886
Hours: Mon - Sun 8:00 am - 10:00 pm     
  Best overall selection of everything joss
  including paper, sticks and gift offerings
  (like shirts, shoes, food, techno-bling, etc.)
  as well as burners.
Welcome Food Center
9180 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77036
(713) 270-7789
Hours: Mon - Sun 9:00 am - 10:00 pm  
  Good selection of joss supplies, mostly paper
  and sticks. Some gift offerings and burners.
Jusgo Supermarket
9280 Bellaire Bvld
Houston, TX 77036
(713) 270-1658
  Small selection of joss supplies including paper,  
  sticks and gift offerings.
99 Ranch Market
1005 Blalock Rd
Houston, TX 77055
(713) 932-8899 
  Mon - Fri 9:00 am -  9:30 pm     
        Sat 8:00 am - 10:00 pm     
        Sun 8:00 am -  9:30 pm
  Very small selection of joss paper and sticks 
  including a variety of bundles.

A Month of Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghost Festival is Friday, August 28th.

If you would like to see how Hungry Ghost Month is observed in Singapore, check out the independent film, A Month of Hungry Ghosts.

The official website is here:

You can rent the movie from Amazon Prime Instant Video here:
A Month of Hungry Ghosts

A Month of Hungry Ghosts (2009) NR
Every year during the seventh lunar month, it is believed that the gates of hell are opened and all the souls are set free to wander the earth. During this time, the spirits try to fulfill their past desires. They are the "hungry ghosts."

    Baozhen Chen, Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje 

    2 hours, 8 minutes

Falling in Love with Joss Paper (2)

I love paper. All kinds of paper, especially origami paper. I have been playing with origami paper for most of my life.

Now I have discovered joss paper. Oh my.

Lots of Joss Paper

At first glance, joss paper seems a lot like origami paper. It is thin inexpensive paper, usually modestly decorative, and is often folded.

Upon closer inspection, however, the two papers couldn’t be more different.

Almost all origami paper is square and comes in solid colors or patterns. Very few types of joss paper are actually square and rarely are they printed in color or in patterns. Joss paper is usually printed in gold, black or red  ink and resembles Chinese paintings and scrolls.

Origami paper is designed to be folded into beautiful models. Students practice for years to master the art of origami. Joss paper is designed to be burned. Period. That is its entire purpose for existence.

Some paper is intended to be folded into offerings for the dead, but it is still meant to be burned. And, by the way,  folding makes it burn better.

How many origami artists create their work just to set it aflame?

There are “paper builders” in Singapore, Taiwan, China, and scattered across other countries who make a living building paper models out of joss paper just so people can set them on fire.

So,  the first reason I fell in love with joss paper: you get to burn it.

jossGhostBoxThere are many more reasons to love joss paper like it’s cheap, it comes in may sizes, shapes and colors, and it’s great for collages and craft projects.

But all of that is true of origami paper as well.

What makes joss paper so unique is the symbolism of each type of paper coupled with the message delivered by its incineration.

Paper clothes to be worn in hell, and Hell Bank Notes to spend.

Prayers to the gods for safety, and gold to honor the ancestors.

The biggest reason I fell in love with joss paper is because it is both sacred and sublime.

Origami paper is for the living. Joss paper is for the dead.


Check out the Hungry Ghost Guide for illustrations of 17 different types of joss paper available in Houston, Texas, USA.