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Death & Dying in Chinese Culture
Transcript of Death & Dying in Chinese Culture
in Chinese Culture
Preparation for a funeral often begins before a death has occurred.
When a person is on his/her deathbed, a coffin will often have already been ordered by the family.
A traditional Chinese coffin is rectangular with three 'humps', although it is more common in modern times for a western style coffin to be used.
The coffin is provided by an undertaker who oversees all funeral rites.
Preparation for the Funeral
In Chinese culture, traditions can vary depending on the deceased’s role in the family, their age, the manner of death, and their position in society.
Funeral planning falls to the eldest son and his children upon the death of their parent(s).
A parent may not perform funeral planning for their child, so an unmarried person is taken to a funeral home upon death.
Chinese rules say that an older person must not show formal respect to a younger person. Therefore, a child is buried in silence and no funeral ceremonies are performed.
When a death occurs in a family, all statues of deities in the house are covered up with red paper so it is not exposed to the body or coffin.
Mirrors are removed due to the belief that one who sees the reflection of a coffin in a mirror will shortly have a death in his/her family.
Practices for Death
The Wake is a Chinese memorial service.
Joss "gold" paper and prayer money (to provide the deceased with sufficient income in the afterlife) are burned continuously throughout the wake.
Funeral guests are required to light incense for the deceased and bow as a sign of respect to the family.
A donation box is present since money is always offered as a sign of respect to the family of the deceased.
Preparation of the Body
Before being placed in the coffin, the corpse is cleaned with a damp towel dusted with talcum powder, and dressed in his/her best clothes.
The corpse is never dressed in red clothing (this will turn the corpse into a ghost). White, black, brown or blue are the usual colors.
Before being placed in the coffin the corpse's face is covered with a yellow cloth and the body with a light blue one.
Traditional Chinese Coffin
Funeral Ceremony and Procession
The funeral ceremony traditionally lasts over 49 days, the first seven being the most important.
Prayers are said every seven days for 49 days.
When the prayer ceremonies are over, the coffin is nailed shut thus representing the separation of the dead from the living.
Paper models of objects such as cars, statues, etc., are carried during the procession to symbolize the wealth of the deceased's family.
Paper models of luxuries are also burned as a form of gift-giving into the afterlife, where the paper models would materialize to the actual form of what it depicts.
Chinese cemeteries are generally located on hillsides since this is thought to improve feng shui (a system of harmonizing with the environment).
When the coffin is taken down from the hearse and lowered into the ground, all present must turn away.
After the funeral, all of clothes worn by the mourners are burned to avoid bad luck associated with death.
Beyond the funeral, a 100 day period of mourning continues within the family.
A piece of colored cloth is worn on the sleeve of each of the family members for 100 days to signify mourning.
Black is worn by the deceased's children,
Blue by the grandchildren,
Green by the great grandchildren.
A period of mourning is not required if the deceased is a child or a wife.
The Return of the Dead
The Chinese believe that seven days after the death of a family member the soul of the departed will return to his/her home.
A red plaque may be placed outside the house at this time to ensure that the soul does not get lost.
On the day of the return of the soul, family members are expected to remain in their rooms.
Flour or talcum powder is often dusted on the floor of the entrance hall of the home to detect the visit.
"Chinese Funeral Customs."
Chinese Funeral Customs
. Ministry of Culture, P.R.China., 1 Jan. 2003. Web. 19 Apr. 2015. <http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_chinaway/2004-03/03/content_46092.htm>.
*All images/videos were taken from google images/youtube.