Chinese Funerary Burners: A Census

Compiled by Terry Abraham <tabraham @ uidaho.edu>


The most common singular feature of overseas Chinese cemeteries and of the Chinese section of host community cemeteries is the "burner" (sometimes erroneously called "oven"). These brick or masonry structures, often over seven feet tall (approx. 2.1 m), serve as a safe place for the ritualized burning of spiritual tributes.

Hell Banknote These paper and cardboard facsimiles of money, clothing, possessions, and houses, for example, are to serve the deceased in the afterlife. Burning these simulacra passes them to the spirit realm.

The majority of the more than 80 burners listed here appear to have been originally constructed between 1880 and 1920. Their size and construction suggest that they were community efforts, funded by the name or clan association that maintained Chinese customs and traditions. There is very little documentation available on the dates of these structures or on the person or persons who built them.

New or revised entries are highlighted. Click on "Map" for the approximate location of the burner or cemetery entrance. See Mapping Funerary Burners for more information.

Additional information on these, or other extant burners, would be greatly appreciated.

For more information, see Chinese Funerary Burners: A Bibliography. Also, see the international list of more than 600 Overseas Chinese Cemeteries.

Burning ritual objects is a daily part of life in much of Asia. For comparative examples of Incense Burners and Holders, Temple Burners, Grave Burners, Dzidzat Shops, and other artifacts, see Other Burners, Other Fires.

For ongoing discussion about Chinese funerary practices, you may wish to participate in the Chinese Cemetery Studies list. It is an electronic discussion list, begun by Wendy Rouse in 1997, which brings together the community of scholars working on aspects of Chinese (particularly overseas Chinese) funerary and mortuary practices. For additional information about the list and how to participate, see <http://webpages.uidaho.edu/special-collections/cemintro.htm>.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery

Photo courtesy Janis Wilton and Golden Threads.

Pioneer Cemetery
Albury
New South Wales
Australia
Masonry burner

Chinese cemeteries in Australia Vol. 4; Golden Threads
Map
Condobolin

Photo courtesy Janis Wilton and Golden Threads.

Condobolin
New South Wales
Australia
Masonry burner, constructed in the early 1990's

Golden Threads; State Heritage
Map
Deniliquin

Photo courtesy Janis Wilton and Golden Threads.

Deniliquin
New South Wales
Australia
"Replica Chinese burning tower"

Golden Threads 2001
Nyngan Chinese section of Nyngan General Cemetery

Photo courtesy Barbara Hickson.

Chinese section of Nyngan General Cemetery
Nyngan
New South Wales
Australia
Masonry burner; State Heritage Register

Chinese Graves in cemeteries in New South Wales Vol. 11
Map
Tumut Pioneer Cemetery

Photo courtesy Jenny Hodges.

Pioneer Cemetery
Tumut
New South Wales
Australia
Masonry burner

Golden Threads 2001
Wagga Wagga

Photo courtesy Janis Wilton and Golden Threads.

Wagga Wagga
New South Wales
Australia
Masonry burner, painted

Golden Threads; Chinese cemeteries in Australia Vol. 4
Map
  Chinese Cemetery
Windeyer
New South Wales
Australia
"ceremonial roasting pit"?; Heritage NSW (PDF); Chinese Cemetery and Oven

Chinese Cemetery and Oven; Windeyer General
Darwin Chinese Memorial Cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, July 2004.

Chinese Memorial Cemetery
Darwin
Northern Territory
Australia
Cement block constructed burner; Darwin Chinese cemetery

Jack, R. Ian. 1995. Chinese cemeteries Outside China. In Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific, 303; Chinese Graves in cemeteries in Victoria Vol.
Map
Cooktown

Photo by R.I. Jack, 1981. Courtesy, Asian American Comparative Collection 49/3.

Cooktown
Queensland
Australia
Two burners adjacent to altar.

Australian Heritage Places Inventory
Mount Morgan Chinese Cemetery

Photo courtesy Ted Shaw at www.mountmorgan.com.

Chinese Cemetery
Mount Morgan
Queensland
Australia
Burner

Jack, R. Ian. 1995. Chinese cemeteries Outside China. In Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific, 304; Map
  Moorina Cemetery
Pioneer
Tasmania
Australia
Burner

Pioneer
Weldborough

Photo by Helen Vivian, 1984. Courtesy, Asian American Comparative Collection 49/4.

Weldborough
Tasmania
Australia
Masonry burner

Jack, R. Ian. 1995. Chinese Cemeteries Outside China. In Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific 304.
Avoca Glenpatrick Chinese Cemetery

Photo by Mellissa Edwards, 2003

Glenpatrick Chinese Cemetery
Avoca
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner; "Now the main visible sign is 'Glenpatrick Cemetery', seen from the road."

Chinese cemeteries in Australia Vol. 3; http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/557073
Map
Ballarat New Cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, February 2000.

New Cemetery
Ballarat
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner

 
Map
Ballarat Old Cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, February 2000.

Old Cemetery
Ballarat
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner, sheet metal top

 
Map
Beechworth General cemetery

Photo by Mellissa Edwards, 2002

General cemetery
Beechworth
Victoria
Australia
Twin masonry burners, metal caps.

Jack, R. Ian. 1995. Chinese Cemeteries Outside China. In Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific 302, 304.
Map
Bendigo Bendigo Cemetery

Photo by Mellissa Edwards, 2003

Bendigo Cemetery
Bendigo
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner; "hexagonal (80 cm for each side) tuckpointed brick structure some 4 metres high"; Chinese Cemeteries in Australia Vol. 2

Australian Heritage Places Inventory; Bendigo Public Cemetery - Bendigo Cemeteries Trust
Map
Campbells Creek Castlemaine Cemetery

Photo by Mellissa Edwards, 2003

Castlemaine Cemetery
Campbells Creek
Victoria
Australia
Burner

Chinese cemeteries in Australia Vol. 1
Map
Dunolly Dunolly Cemetery

Photo by Anthony Briggs, February 2003

Dunolly Cemetery
Dunolly
Victoria
Australia
Burner

 
Map
  Echuca
Victoria
Australia
Burner

Golden Dragon Museum. Chinese Memorials & Memories. Bendigo: 2001. p. 37.
Maldon

Photo by Anthony Briggs, May 2001

Maldon
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner, triple dome on top. Built by John South, see http://www.samuelsouth.btinternet.co.uk/update048.htm.

Jack, R. Ian. 1995. Chinese Cemeteries Outside China. In Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific, 304.
Map
Maryborough Maryborough Cemetery

Photo by Mellissa Edwards, 2003

Maryborough Cemetery
Maryborough
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner

Chinese Graves in cemeteries in Victoria Vol. 9
  Melbourne General Cemetery
Melbourne
Victoria
Australia
Burner, "Chinese funerary ovens"

 
Map
  Carlyle Cemetery
Wahgunyah
Victoria
Australia
Burner, "Chinese burning towers from the goldrush era."

Walkabout: Wahgunyah 2001; Image 8.
Map
White Hills

Photo by Mellissa Edwards, 2003

White Hills
Victoria
Australia
Masonry burner, "hexagonal (80 cm for each side) tuckpointed brick structure some 4 metres high." Identical to Bendigo burner

Chinese cemeteries in Australia Vol. 5; White Hills Public Cemetery
Map
Calgary Chinese Cemetery

Photo by David Kerkkonen, October 2004

Chinese Cemetery
Calgary
Alberta
Canada
Red brick burner, concrete top

Chinese Cemetery; also 1920s photo at Calgary Cemetery
Map
Calgary Rockyview Garden of Peace

Photo by David Kerkkonen, September 2007

Rockyview Garden of Peace
Calgary
Alberta
Canada
Buddhist Section; masonry burner, memorial tablet

 
Map
Calgary Queen's Park Cemetery

Photo by David Kerkkonen, March 2006.

Queen's Park Cemetery
Calgary
Alberta
Canada
Two brick burners and center altar

 
Map
  Edmonton Cemetery, Chinese Section
Edmonton
Alberta
Canada
Burner.

Personal communication.
Map
Lethbridge Mountain View Cemetery

Photo by David Kerkkonen, 2008

Mountain View Cemetery
Lethbridge
Alberta
Canada
Burner and altar platform

Mountain View Cemetery
Map
Kamloops Chinese Cemetery

Photo by Tahanni Wou, 2006

Chinese Cemetery
Kamloops
British Columbia
Canada
Burner

Kamloops Municipal Cemeteries
Map
Nanaimo Chinese Cemetery

Photo by David Kerkkonen, 2011

Chinese Cemetery
Nanaimo
British Columbia
Canada
Burner integrated with altar

See City of Nanaimo Heritage Inventory; Maxwell, Judy. "Chinese cemeteries and grave markers in B.C.: A research guide." British Columbia History, 40:4(2007)15.
Map
Nelson Nelson Memorial Park

Photo by David Kerkkonen, July 2005

Nelson Memorial Park
Nelson
British Columbia
Canada
 
Map
  Chinese Cemetery
New Westminster
British Columbia
Canada
Site of New Westminster Secondary School development project; burner no longer extant

www.boothill.ca/faq.html
Map
Vancouver Mountain View Cemetery

Photo by Glen Hodges, May 2010

Mountain View Cemetery
Vancouver
British Columbia
Canada
Reconstructed burner (2010) next to altar and pavilion.

Photo of original burner at Vancouver Public Library. 1910 photograph by Philip Timms. VPL 7356.
Map
Victoria Chinese Cemetery at  Harling Point

Photo courtesy Old Cemeteries Society.

Chinese Cemetery at Harling Point
Victoria
British Columbia
Canada
Twin burners and altar

Old Cemeteries Society
Map
  Nirvana Memorial Park
Semenyih
Selangor
Malaysia
Burner

 
Map
  Chinese Cemetery
Manila
Metro Manila
Philippines
"Kim" Burner

See <http://community.webshots.com/photo/ 163376852/1163379385057477332iyKxnM>
Map
Auburn Chinese Cemetery

Photo by Peter Bell, June 19, 1994. Courtesy, AACC 235/2.

Chinese Cemetery
Auburn
California
United States
Masonry burner

Wey, Nancy, compiler. n.d., Chinese Sites in California. Unpaginated, arranged by county. Photocopy in the Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho, Moscow:
Map
  Chinese Cemetery
Bakersfield
California
United States
Removed, developed. Gia, Gilbert. "What Happened to Bakersfield's Old Chinese Cemetery? 1870-1993." 2009; burner no longer extant

http://www.gilbertgia.com/hist_articles/civRights/chinese_cemetery_aj_civ.pdf (PDF)
Map
  Chico Cemetery
Chico
California
United States
Book, Susan. "Ashes to Ashes: Chinese Cemeteries in Butte County." Diggins, 18(1974)9; burner no longer extant

 
Map
Colma Hoy Sun Memorial Cemetery

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Hoy Sun Memorial Cemetery
Colma
California
United States
Burner; "November 1988" on marker

 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
"Hee Shen Association"

 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
Brick covered in marble

 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
 
Map
  Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
Personal observation
Map
  Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
Personal observation
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
Bay Area Cemeteries - Chinese Cemetery
Map
  Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
Personal observation
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, September 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
"Leong Sen Association"

 
Map
Daly City Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd

Photo by Randall Bloch, June 2001.

Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
 
Map
  Look San Chinese Cemetery, Callan Blvd
Daly City
California
United States
Personal observation
Map
  Dutch Flat
California
United States
Damaged Burner

Personal communication
Map
Fairfield Suisun-Fairfield Cemetery, Union Avenue

Photo by T. Abraham, April 2002

Suisun-Fairfield Cemetery, Union Avenue
Fairfield
California
United States
Burner

 
Map
Folsom Young Wo Cemetery, Forrest Street

Photo by P. Wegars, April 2002

Young Wo Cemetery, Forrest Street
Folsom
California
United States
1997? construction date on burner

 
Map
Hanford

Photo by Lucky Owyang, June 2005.

Hanford
California
United States
Burner

 
Map
Loomis Former Chinese cemetery

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, October 2001.

Former Chinese cemetery
Loomis
California
United States
Brick burner, on private property

Morita, Jennifer. 2001. "Forgotten Past." Sacramento Bee, August 26, B4
Los Angeles Chinese Cemetery

Photo by Gilbert Hom, October, 2007.

Chinese Cemetery
Los Angeles
California
United States
Orignal twin burners with altar replaced with pavilion, altar, and burner, 2007

Chinese Cemetery
Map
Los Angeles Evergreen Cemetery

Photos by P. Wegars, January 2001.

Evergreen Cemetery
Los Angeles
California
United States
Two burners with altar.

Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. 1998; Greenwood, Roberta S. 1996. Down by the Station: Los Angeles Chinatown, 1880-1993. Los Angeles: UCLA Institute of Archaeology.
Map
  Alhambra Cemetery - Potter's Field
Martinez
California
United States
Burner foundation only, also brick rubble

Cemetery Tour of Martinez
Map
Marysville Historic Marysville Cemetery

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, December 2001.

Historic Marysville Cemetery
Marysville
California
United States
"a volunteer builder is restoring a rare Chinese oven in the cemetery. The last episode of vandalism caused over $25,000 in damages."

COUNCIL NEWS COORDINATOR. 13:3 (May/June 2001); Preserving a piece of history. Appeal-Democrat, April 29, 2002.
Map
Monterey San Carlos Cemetery

Photo by Randall Bloch, June 2001.

San Carlos Cemetery
Monterey
California
United States
Burner and altar.

 
Map
Nevada City Chinese Cemetery

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, June 2001.

Chinese Cemetery
Nevada City
California
United States
Burner

Hagaman, Wallace R. 1998. A Short History of the Chinese Cemetery at Nevada City, California. Nevada City: Cowboy Press; Five Views
Map
Olivehurst Sierra View Memorial Park

Photo by Lucky Owyang, February 2007.

Sierra View Memorial Park
Olivehurst
California
United States
 
Map
  Chinese cemetery
Salinas
California
United States
Burner

Farkas, Lani Ah Tye. Bury My Bones in America (1998), p. 147, n. 13.
Map
San Jose Historic Chinese American Cemetery, Curtner Road

Photo by T. Abraham, May 2002.

Historic Chinese American Cemetery, Curtner Road
San Jose
California
United States
Wey, Nancy, compiler. n.d., Chinese Sites in California. Unpaginated, arranged by county. Photocopy in the Asian American Comparative Collection, University of Idaho, Moscow: San Jose.

Abandoned Chinese Cemetery
Map
Santa Cruz Evergreen Cemetery

Photo by Randall Bloch, June 2001.

Evergreen Cemetery
Santa Cruz
California
United States
Masonry burner. Replica, see Lydon, Sandy. Bringing the Dead to Life. 2005

 
Map
Stockton Chinese Cemetery, West Mathews Road, French Camp

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, 2003.

Chinese Cemetery, West Mathews Road, French Camp
Stockton
California
United States
Brick burner.

 
Map
Stockton Chinese Cemetery, West Mathews Road, French Camp

Photo by W.R. Hagaman, 2003.

Chinese Cemetery, West Mathews Road, French Camp
Stockton
California
United States
Altar and two brick burners near entrance

Chinese Cemetery.
Map
Vina Chinese cemetery

Photo by Carrie Wills, May 2001.

Chinese cemetery
Vina
California
United States
Masonry burner

 
Map
Watsonville Pioneer Cemetery, Freedom Boulevard

Photo by Sandy Lydon.

Pioneer Cemetery, Freedom Boulevard
Watsonville
California
United States
Masonry burner. Also referred to as the Freedom Cemetery

 
Map
Wheatland Chinese American Cemetery

Photo by Wendy Rouse, July 2001.

Chinese American Cemetery
Wheatland
California
United States
Burner Rebuilt by Wheatland Historical Society, 1978

Wheatland Chinese American Cemetery
Map
  Chinese Cemetery
Yreka
California
United States
"Brick oven;" "A single marker remains, inscribed in Chinese characters"

Siskiyou Pioneer, 6:3(1990)98, 134; Attractions in the Gold Country
Pa'ia Pa'ia Chinese Cemetery

Photo by T. Abraham, 2009.

Pa'ia Chinese Cemetery
Pa'ia
Hawaii - Maui
United States
Burner. Paia Chinese Cemetery

Chung, Sue Fawn & Neizman, R. Remembering Ancestors in Hawai'i, in Chinese American Death Rituals (2005), pp. 187-188
Map
Waiehu Kwong Fook Tong Chinese Cemetery

Photo by T. Abraham, 2009.

Kwong Fook Tong Chinese Cemetery
Waiehu
Hawaii - Maui
United States
Burner.

Chung, Sue Fawn & Neizman, R. Remembering Ancestors in Hawai'i, in Chinese American Death Rituals (2005), pp. 189-190
Map
Boise Morris Hill Cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, 1997.

Morris Hill Cemetery
Boise
Idaho
United States
White painted brick burner in Chinese section

 
Map
Stickney Mt. Auburn  Cemetery, Chinese section

Photo by Emma Woo Louie, 2013

Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Chinese section
Stickney
Illinois
United States
Historic places in Chicago's Chinatown
Map
Butte Mount Moriah Cemetery

Photo by John Mihelich, April 2002.

Mount Moriah Cemetery
Butte
Montana
United States
Burner Southwest corner of cemetery. Concrete over brick. Vandalized

 
Map
Helena Forestvale Cemetery (China Row)

Photo by Chris Merritt, August 2007

Forestvale Cemetery (China Row)
Helena
Montana
United States
Brick rubble

Poorhouses in Montana
Map
  Demersville Cemetery
Kalispell
Montana
United States
Burner no longer extant

Shea, Marie Cuffe. Early Flathead and Tobacco Plains. [Eureka? Mont.]: M.C. Shea, 1977. p. 82
Map
Philipsburg Philipsburg City Cemetery

Photo by Chris Merritt, August 2007

Philipsburg City Cemetery
Philipsburg
Montana
United States
Rubble

 
Map
  Chinese Cemetery
Winnemucca
Nevada
United States
"CHINESE CEMETERY, with a pagoda-topped brick oven"; Redeveloped.

Nevada:A Guide to the Silver State; Chung, Sue Fawn, Frampton, F. P., and Murphy, T. W. Venerate These Bones, in Chinese American Death Rituals (2005), p. 110.
Map
  Frost Woods Memorial Park
East Brunswick
New Jersey
United States
"a black outdoor chimney"; reportedly demolished

 
Map
Baker City Chinese cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, July 1996.

Chinese cemetery
Baker City
Oregon
United States
Burner reconstruction, masonry; corrugated iron roof; one marker; exhumation pits

 
Map
Pendleton Olney Cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, May 1999. Courtesy, Asian American Comparative Collection.

Olney Cemetery
Pendleton
Oregon
United States
Burner vandalized, now has concrete cap

Asian American Sites
Map
  Lone Fir Cemetery
Portland
Oregon
United States
Most graves removed for building construction; ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATION OF MULTNOMAH COUNTY'S MORRISON PROPERTY (PDF); burner no longer extant

Smits, Nicholas J. Roots entwined: Archaeology of an urban Chinese American Cemetery. Historical Archaeology 42:3 (2008)111-122.
Map
Bala Cynwyd Merion Memorial Park

Photo by Ken Eng, 2010.

Merion Memorial Park
Bala Cynwyd
Pennsylvania
United States
Burner

Zhang, Juwen. 2001. Falling Seeds Take Root. PhD thesis U of Pennsylvania; 215 (photo p. 235).
Map
Deadwood Mount Moriah Cemetery

Photo courtesy City of Deadwood, 2013.

Mount Moriah Cemetery
Deadwood
South Dakota
United States
Burner and altar reconstructed in 2013.

Chinese Burner Dedication (PDF).
Map
El Paso Concordia Cemetery

Courtesy Concordia Heritage Association, 2010.

Concordia Cemetery
El Paso
Texas
United States
Masonry burner with concrete facing

Crawford, Sybil. 2001. 19th, 20th, and 21st Century Gravestones. AGS (Association for Gravestone Studies) Quarterly 25:2(Spring) 11-12; Concordia's Chinese Cemetery
Map
  Salt Lake City Cemetery
Salt Lake City
Utah
United States
"a square cement box where, when a burial took place, a part of the clothing of the deceased, prayers written on paper, and incense were burned"

HANDCART-L Archives
Map
Walla Walla Mountain View Cemetery

Photo by P. Wegars, 1997.

Mountain View Cemetery
Walla Walla
Washington
United States
Red brick burner, sloping cap

http://www.cinarc.org/Topics.html#anchor_360
Map

Acknowledgments


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Terry Abraham | Return to Selected Papers and Presentations