I recently discovered that I’ve been practicing Shenism my entire life, but never knew what it was called in English.
I find the practice of making offerings to your ancestors to be very interesting. From what I have been told, when you die, you go to deep dark place in the earth. Also known as hell. There you have nothing but what you are buried with. Here you must rely solely on the love from your living family. If you treat your family poorly, it is unlikely that they will make offerings to you after you have died. As a result you’ll be a “starving” ghost. If you had raised your family to love and respect you, they will offer roast pigs, chickens, fish, money and wine to you. I always found this to be a great way to train kids to be good to their families, those that are bad, will starve in hell.
Though I always wondered why joss sticks were used when honoring the dead. I’ve seen it said in chinese movies or tv shows that the dead consume the sticks as they are burned, that the quality/size mattered. I’ve also read that people believe your wishes are carried by the scent of the sticks to the heavens as they are burnt.