Reimagining Ritual

modernising ancestral worship

ceramics, product design
Glasgow School of Art
Reimagining Ritual

This project is about reinventing the Chinese tradition of ancestral worship through the collaborative co-design of a personalized ritual kit. As a Singaporean-Chinese living in the UK, I wanted to explore an opportunity for other young diasporic Chinese to connect with their roots and cultural heritage.

Through interviews with diasporic Chinese of all ages, insights were gathered into aspects of Chinese culture that the older generations felt were most important to preserve. The practice of ancestral worship particularly stood out, as it epitomizes the value of filial piety and respect for the dead. My project addresses themes of shifting modernity while not letting go of tradition, to create connection between the older generation who still practice ancestral worship and the young generations who no longer connect with the rituals in their traditional form.

I did not want to be overly prescriptive, so I invited participants to create their own rituals that were authentic to them through a codesign card sort activity, which made its way into the kit as an interactive guidebook. Objects were prototyped with cardboard and air dry clay, tested, and then built with earthenware and fired. The final product is a customisable ancestral worship kit which includes a guidebook to allow users to design their own ritual, and a series of ritual objects designed to be used and displayed in the home. The set consists of a shrine, two teacups, a small vase, a plate/incense holder, a photo frame, a pack of incense and a candle in the shape of a Chinese gold ingot which represents the sending of money to ancestors in the afterlife. This sparks a renewed connection to one’s family and culture, especially when one is overseas for a long period of time.

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