Funeral Superstitions in China

Every culture has certain customs that dictate how they deal with death and funerals.  In America, we have the wake (though not always) then the funeral and burial, maybe even a dinner afterwards for friends and family.  How does China handle someone’s passing?

Dog
Starting with the funeral preparations, it is believed that dogs can see spirits so a sudden howling is often seen as a representation of death.  When someone is close to death, the family will already have the coffin ready so their loved one’s body isn’t sitting around after death.

Once someone passes, any deity statues in the home are covered with red paper to avoid any form of exposure to death.  Mirrors are also covered as it is believed that to see a coffin in a mirror is an omen of death.  White cloth is hung from the door frame and a gong is placed beside the door, depending on the gender of the deceased.

Next is tending to the body of the deceased.  Talcum powder is applied to the body and they are dressed in their favorite outfit; the rest of the wardrobe is then burned.  Coloured cloths are draped over the body: yellow for the head and pale blue for the body.  Red is avoided at all costs because a person draped in red will come back as a ghost.  The body is then placed on a mat or layer of hay.

Coffin

Then comes the funeral.  Blood relatives and daughters-in-law are expected to wail and cry to show their love and concern for the deceased.  If there is a large inheritance involved then the wailing is meant to be louder and more pronounced.  Jewelry and red clothing are to be avoided by funeral attendees.  “Joss paper” (or prayer money) is burned during the ceremony in order to pay the deceased’s way in the afterlife.  Coincidentally enough, gambling is also a big part of the funeral.

Chinese funeral customs are very different from their Western counterparts but they are also similar in some ways.  Both cultures prepare the bodies in their finest/favorite outfits and believe in wearing darker clothing to signify mourning (though in China those who are not close to the deceased may wear brighter colours).

~ Jordan

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