Arthur M Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art - The National Museum of Asian Art - Smithsonian Institution
Ancestor Worship Today list of exhibitions > online exhibitions > teens > Altars
Looking at the Altar
"This photo is of the altar used during my grandfather's funeral in Taiwan in the summer of 1975. Normally altars are taken down forty-nine days after the person's death, because the altar was used by the family for paying respects to the recently deceased during the forty-nine-day period, when the spirit of the deceased is going through judgment. After this altar was taken down, my grandfather was considered one of our ancestors, and my family paid their respects to him along with the other ancestors."

Gloria Huang, April 2001

This is the place where people bow (or kowtow) to the deceased.

Funerary urn
Funerary urn
Yaping Li died in Shanghai in 1987. For the next eight years, his mother kept his ashes in an urn on the table for ancestor worship. In 1995, the urn was taken to the United States, where Yaping Li's wife and children now live.

Kenneth Chiu and his wife, Carol
"This story begins many years ago in Taiwan, when Kenneth Chiu and his wife, Carol, were dating. Kenneth and his family paid respects to their ancestors each year with ceremonies and offerings."
Wu Meifen
"In my family, women did not take part in the major roles of the funeral ceremony. Watching my brother, who was just a child, play an important role during the funeral made me feel sad, neglected.

"Growing up in Taiwan, our holidays always included ancestor worship. When my grandmother passed away, I had to lead the funeral procession because I was the eldest grandson."

"It's morning again, and it's time to worship our ancestors. My mom is lighting the incense sticks and putting them into a small pot filled with rice, which allows the sticks to stand up."
A look at the Altars
Ceremony in Taiwan
Funerary Practices
Meet the Research Team