Ceremonial Use


The majority of the prints in this category formed part of a ceremony during which they would receive offerings and then be sent off by burning to the other realm to intercede there on behalf of those remaining behind. Others would be pasted on ceremonial altars, in stables, or other relatively inconspicuous places, where they would receive offerings for a period of time before being burned.


These prints, some of them enormous, depict "all the gods." Although the inclusion and positioning of gods does vary from print to print, a number of norms surface after careful comparison. These norms, as well as the inconsistencies among the prints, can tell us a lot about the ways in which the realm of the gods was ordered. The subsections are arranged in a manner that corresponds roughly with the usual arrangement of the gods in the pantheons.

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

Buddhas and bodhisattvas occupy an honored position, usually in the uppermost row of the pantheon. There does not, however, seem to be a clear hierarchy among them, and while Guanyin seems to be the most frequently represented in individual prints, she is not generally a central figure in the pantheon.

God of Wealth

The God of Wealth is included in almost every pantheon, and is well represented in individual prints. This group of prints of the God of Wealth seems to have been intended for ceremonial use rather than display, as were those images of the God of Wealth under "Domestic Shrine."

Central Figures

Guandi and the Jade Emperor occupy the two most prominent positions in the majority of the pantheons. They are usually found in the center of the pantheon, and the figures that represent them are almost always significantly larger than the other gods. In addition, Guandi can be recognized by his red face.


This group of prints consists of gods that are associated with heaven in some way or another, but that in practice are not easily distinguished from the following category, "Earth." Many of the heavenly gods are anthropomorphic stars that are occasionally referred to by their titles (in characters) alone. In the pantheons, these gods are located along the midline, near Guandi.


This category is perhaps the most diverse and inclusive of the prints for ceremonial use. It includes all the gods in charge of the natural world (including mountains, water, animals, etc.) as well as those associated with specific pursuits or trades, such as Wenshu, the God of Literature. In the pantheons, these gods are usually located just below the gods associated with heaven.


These gods make up the bottom row of the pantheon. They are in charge of hell and care for the newly dead, and ancestors more generally. Also included among the individual prints are images of clothing and money to be burned for use by the deceased in the underworld.