Chinese Funeral

Ancient Chinese Funeral

China funeral Since cremation is traditionally uncommon, the burial of the dead is a matter taken very seriously in Chinese society. Improper funeral arrangements can wreak ill fortune and disaster on the family of the deceased.

To a certain degree, Chinese funeral rites and burial customs are determined by the age of the deceased, cause of death, status and position in society, and marital status.

According to Chinese custom, an elder should never show respect to someone younger. So, if the deceased is a young bachelor, for example, his body cannot be brought home and must remain at the funeral parlor. His parents cannot offer prayers to their son, either: Since he was unmarried, he did not have any children to whom he could perform these same rites. (This is why the body cannot come into the family home.) If an infant or child dies, no funeral rites are performed either since respect cannot be shown to a younger person. The child is thus buried in silence.

Funeral rites for an elder must follow a prescribed form: Rites befitting a person's status, age, etc., must be performed even if this means the family of the deceased will go into debt.

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 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.

When a death occurs in a family all statues of deities in the house are covered up with red paper (not to be exposed to the body or coffin) and all mirrors are removed (it is believed that one who sees the reflection of a coffin in a mirror will shortly have a death in his/her family). A white cloth is hung over the doorway to the house and a gong is placed to the left of the entrance if the deceased is a male, and to the right if female.

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 (all other clothing of the deceased is burned) before being placed on a mat (or hay in rural areas). The body is completely dressed, including the footwear, and cosmetics (if female), although 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.