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Chinese Funerals

Centuries of Memorial Tradition and Customs that Are Worthy of Study

Chinese funerals adopt customs that have been part of human culture for centuries - millennia even - and are, therefore, worthy of study by anyone interested in the history of mankind. Even modern men who live in cultures far removed from China will find something of value in understanding the memorial traditions of Chinese funerals. So here is a brief guide to Chinese funerals.

As is the case in some other parts of the world, Chinese funerals begin before death has occurred. If a loved one is about to die, they will bring him into the house as it is considered bad luck for Chinese funerals adopt customs that have been a part of humanity for ageshim to die outside. As his life comes to an end, his family will often begin placing red paper over all of the statues of gods in the house. Then all of the mirrors will be covered. After that, a white sheet will be thrown over the door. All of this is in keeping with the Chinese custom that if one sees a casket in the mirror, he will soon die himself, so they do everything that they can to avoid that possibility.

The next measure families take to prepare for Chinese funerals is to ritually wash the body of the departed with a wet rag, followed by dusting it with talcum powder. This is often followed by dressing the deceased in his best clothes. These are usually black, blue, green, or white, but almost never dress him in red, as they believe that this will turn him into a ghost. It is just as important that he have on his favorite shoes.

He is then placed into his funeral burial casket, and all of the family turn away. This likewise is considered bad luck to watch.

Chinese funerals usually officially begin with the wake. During this time, it is traditional that relatives wail and cry to show their sadness. The children of the deceased and daughters-in-law will often wear sackcloth on their heads, and the oldest son will sit at the left shoulder of his parent, as the departed's spouse sits on his right. It is customary for later guests to come in crawling on their knees out of respect for the dead as they walk towards the casket. As this is going on, one of the family members will light incense at the foot of the casket, which shows (perhaps because of its pleasant aroma) respect for the dead. The Chinese also believe that there is money in the afterlife, so at this time they will often slip five pieces of golden paper, which represent that, into the casket in order to help their loved ones to be financially stable in the afterlife. There is also a donation box where friends can give real money to help the family pay for the cost of the funeral.

Chinese funerals often officially begin with a wakeChinese funerals usually begin when the casket is casket is nailed shut. This is an important moment, as it is considered the official point that the deceased departs from the world of the living. No one watches, as it is believed that this too will cause bad luck. As this is going on, the crowd will wail again to show their sadness over their loss. They will then pray for the departed that he may enter into heaven. This is then followed by funeral prayers from the mourners as the deceased is being loaded onto the hearse. They are not allowed to watch this either, again, bad luck. The "chief mourner" will then fall on the oldest son of the departed, signifying his anguish. The family will then hand mourners an envelope with a dollar bill in it. This is intended to bring back any good fortune that may have been lost during the proceedings, and to make sure of this, the family will often jump over a small fire as they walk back into their home.

The burial segment in Chinese funerals is a surprisingly happy time. After they have buried a loved one, they will often hold a graveside banquet. It is believed that if something bad happens, namely the loss of a relative, something good will happen to cancel it out, so the banquet is an acknowledgment of this.

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