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Monday, May 23, 2011

A Chinese Funeral 4

Typically, during a funeral, friends and business associates of the deceased and deceased's families will give wreath, banner and of cash known as "pek kim" or white gold. The former are valued by businessman as the more their are on display, the more status and prestige is accorded to the deceased and family. The pek kim is to help in defraying the cost of the funeral which can runs into thousand of $$$.

On the day of the funeral, the elaborate altar is removed and replace by a long table laden with offerings.

There are food galore

Flower and fruit baskets. Each of these are "dedicated" by relatives of the deceased and each one either singly or in group will offer it to the deceased. Again, the purpose of these offerings is to ensure that the deceased has enough food to last the journey.

In most cases, at an auspicious time, the coffin will be "closed" if it has not been done so. During this process, everybody present at the funeral will need to turn away. Why? I think it is just consider bad luck - symbolically, to drive the nail into the coffin. Same thing when the coffin is being carried to the hearse.

Talking about hearse, in the past, the hearse was a very beautiful carriage decorated with colorful pictures.

Nowadays, it is a simple van.

In the past, the funeral procession was also an elaborate affair. The grander the more prestige accorded to the deceased. There was performance by Giant Dolls, stilt walkers, flower girls and band. Nowadays, it is rare to see these anymore. At most it is a band, a cymbal performance by a clan organisation and a scaled down procession.
A scaled down procession

A funeral band

Cymbals from a Clan organisation
The family has to walk behind the hearse. Where possible, the most immediate family has to place their hand on the hearse sort of to "accompany" the deceased for part of the journey. The eldest son carries a broom like stick with a paper lantern hanging from it. This is where the soul of the deceased is supposed to be in during the journey. He also has to carry the incense bowl with a single lighted incense stick. A

t every junction and bridge, he has to kneel and call out to the deceased to "cross the bridge" so that the deceased know where to go.

It is more common now for the body to be cremated instead of burial. As Singapore has only 3 crematoriums, due to the tight schedule, the final ritual is a short affair. A prayer and immediately thereafter the cremation. In the past, the family would have to mourn for up to 100 days but nowadays, most do not even mourn for even a day and they will ditch the "badge" immediately after the cremation. This means they no longer need to wear mourning colours thereafter. In fact, they will change into colorful clothes immediately to symbolise the change of status.

The eldest son will also carry the urn back home or to a temple where the deceased tablet and photo will be placed for up to 100 days and the daughter in law will have to continue with the daily process of bathing the photo. Of course, again it is now more common for this to be outsource to the temple where the monks will carry on with the rituals.

Those who attended the funeral will cleanse themselves with "red flower" water. This is a potpourri of flowers put in a pail of water. This is supposedly to get rid of any bad luck associated with attending the funeral.

And finally after all is over, there is a feast to thank friends and relatives and to wrap up the funeral proper.

And this conclude the final post on the Chinese funeral. Hopefully it has been informative enough for a glimpse of a Chinese funeral. For a more detailed information on Chinese funeral, read here.

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