“Age Before Beauty” Transcends Mortality
One of the greatest factors when carrying out a Chinese funeral is the age of the deceased and whether or not the person had children. Because Chinese culture dictates that respect only rises, single men are not buried at home, merely left at the funeral home and buried without any rituals. Parents’ corpses are brought homeward so that their children can administer the traditional rites regardless of the monetary feasibility such endeavors entail.
- If a young child or baby dies, the body is silently buried.
Most Chinese are very proactive about death and dying.
- One of the quirkier Chinese funeral superstitions involves dogs. As dogs are believed capable of seeing spirits, it is believed that a sudden, prolonged fit of howling signifies a death.
- When a person is on his deathbed, his family will already have the coffin ready.
- While some traditionalists will invest in a rectangular, three-humped Chinese coffin, the western coffin has become increasingly common.
- Once death occurs, every piece of statuary depicting a deity within the person’s house is shrouded with red paper-to protect from them exposure to the body or its coffin. Mirrors are also hidden due to the belief that seeing a coffin in a mirror is ominous of death. Lastly, white cloth is hung from the home’s door frame and a gong is placed to the door frame’s side; either to the left if the deceased was male or to the right if it was female.
Tending to the Body
Prior to being lowered into its coffin, the corpse is cleansed in very specific ways.
- Talcum powder is dusted over its entirety.
- The deceased is dressed in his favorite outfit while the remainder of his wardrobe is to be incinerated.
- While the body is completely dressed, and women have makeup applied, there are several Chinese funeral superstitions that come into play when it comes to color: red clothes are to be avoided as this will cause the deceased to return as a ghost and colored cloth is placed over the body with a yellow fabric over the face and a pale blue fabric over the body.
- The powdered, dressed body is placed upon a mat or a layer of hay.
- The coffins of people who die at home are to be stood up within the home and those housing people who die away from home are to be placed within home’s courtyard.
- The coffin must also be positioned so that deceased’s head faces inside the house and rests no more than a foot above the ground.
- Food is to be lain at the front of the coffin as if it were being given to the deceased.
- Lastly, a comb, belonging to the deceased, is split. One portion stays within the coffin and the other is kept by the bereaved.
Filial Duties and Observances
- Family are to eschew jewelry and red attire during a wake. More specifically, children and daughters-in-law wear black and also sackcloth hoods over their heads while grandchildren and great-grandchildren wear light blue. Sons-in-law, perceived as outside of the family, wear bright colors. The logic goes that the closer the person’s clothing is to black, the more they mourn the loss.
- While it was traditional for the deceased’s descendants to forgo haircuts 49 days post mortem, this observance seems to be dying out.
- Blood relatives and daughters-in-law are expected to cry, moan and wail in order to convey their love and respect. Wailing is supposed to be considerably audible if a large inheritance is involved.
- A wake also calls for family members to stand around the coffin according to their family status-the eldest son sits to the left of his parent, while the deceased spouse sits to the right. Relatives who arrive late must crawl to the coffin on their knees.
Money and Corpses
Prayer money, also known as “Joss paper” is burnt throughout the ceremony in order to fund the deceased’s time in the afterlife. Gambling is a common occurrence during Chinese funerals-gambling helps a group of people remain awake during their vigil over the body, as well as ease their grief. A donation box is also presented as a way of offsetting the family’s funeral costs.