Jìngxiāng (敬香 "offering incense with respect"), shàngxiāng (上香 "offering incense"), bàishén (拜神 "worshipping gods"), is a ritual of offering incense accompanied by tea and or fruits in Chinese traditional religion. In ancestral religious worship it's jìngzǔ (敬祖 "veneration of the ancestor") or bàizǔ 拜祖 ("worship of the ancestor"). It is observed by a devotee holding joss incense with both hands in front of an altar while praying or meditating. For added respect the devotee or descendant is expected to kneel during and after placing the incense in the urn or at the altar.
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Jiangxiang is practiced in diffused Chinese folk religion and also by adherents belonging to the schools of Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism. It's used for making a general prayer to one of the Chinese deities, sending well wishes to a deceased ancestor as part of daily prayers in Chinese ancestor veneration, or celebrating the Qingming Festival, Ghost festival and Chongyang Festival .
Number and meanings of incense
The number of joss stick varies, usually three or five, or less commonly, nine. The ancient Chinese consider that even numbers are associated with yin, and odd numbers are associated with yang. Because yang represents positive and auspicious things, odd numbers like three, five and nine are preferred in many rituals.
The scent of the joss sticks is believed to calm the human spirit. The same effect is believed to affect the spirit of a deceased ancestor. In this connection it also serves as a notice to the deity an adherent is respecting. It is also considered a form of food to the spirits and gods in Daoism and Chinese Buddhism.
Usually jingxiang is done with an offering of tea, in a number corresponding to the gods, typically three cups. Fruit is generally offered to accompany Jingxiang, again the specification differs for temples or deities.