Chinese Funeral Customs and Ceremony ~ PreparationPosted on May 30 in Chinese Tradition, In Memory Ofby ShelynPrint
Let’s begin with the brief idea of Traditional Chinese Funeral Arrangements:
Since cremation is traditionally uncommon, the burial of the dead is a matter taken very seriously in Chinese society. My open-minded grandpa wanted to minimize the complexity of the funeral arrangements and thus, he wanted his body to be cremated, which all his sons and daughters respected his decision.
According to Chinese belief, 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.
Leadership of the Funeral Arrangements
But in our case, we didn’t follow the rule exactly. The leadership was passed to the second eldest son of my grandpa due to some reasons that my eldest uncle couldn’t take over the role. On top of that, nobody would understand their own father better than anyone else in the family, not their sons nor wives. So in my family, all decisions about the funeral were made by my seven uncles. Their wives and children can provide opinion but had no final decision on that. My grandpa’s 2 daughters, my aunt and my mum, acted as adviser, but tried to minimize their involvements in the meetings to avoid any conflicts. After all, with 7 sons and 2 daughters in a family is not as simple as most of the modern families that probably have only 3 kids, the most.
Form of the Funeral Ceremony
The funeral ceremony, which traditionally lasts over 49 days, the first seven days being the most important. Prayers are said every seven days for 49 days if the family can afford it. If the family is in poor circumstances, the period may be shortened to from 3 to 7 days.
In Malaysia I don’t think we can still find any funeral ceremony that lasts over 49 days. Most of the funeral ceremony here last for only 3 days, as mentioned earlier it was too hassle and time consuming. However, my family decided to hold a 5 days ceremony with the reason 3 days is too rush and they think that a big ceremony for their beloved father worth all the hassle.
Preparation for a 5 Days Funeral Ceremony
After several meetings among all the uncles, they decided to hold the ceremony in Xiao En Centre 孝恩馆 in Cheras.
The reasons for picking Xiao En Centre are:
1. Comfortable and immaculate environment.
2. Equipped with facilities like lobby lounge, showroom & florist, as well as beautiful landscaped with outdoor decks.
3. Visitors are greeted by a luxurious foyer with 24-hour customer service counter.
4. Centre’s design combines modern sensibilities & traditional concepts.
Customer Service Counter – Empty though. It was taken at 8a.m.
I wonder if it was really 24-hour customer service.
(How come it sounds like having holiday in the resort?)
*It was very cold in the centre*
The workers were setting up another altar just next to my grandpa’s altar for the praying ceremony conducted by Taoist Priest.
The entrance to the hall were decorated with 2 lanterns.
A notice board and a reception were setup at the entrance.
The big lantern on the left with the word “The Great Father” printed on it.
The small lantern at the bottom was printed with the age of my grandpa, 90 years old.
You might wonder why 90. The way that Chinese calculates is to add 3 years to the age of death, i.e. 87 + 3 = 90.
I’ve yet to figure out what’s the reason to add 3 years to the original age. Maybe you can tell me if you know the reason :-)
The big lantern on the right was printed with my grandpa’s surname, Yeaw 姚.
With these lanterns, the guests would not be confused when there were few ceremonies held at the same time in the same building.
These are the obituaries of my grandpa published in different newspapers.
The obituary usually includes the date of death, reason of death, family tree and short biographical account. Sometimes the obituary is required if the deceased have many friends and relatives that was not possible to inform them personally.
Some of the guests or business partners would publish their condolences in the newspaper as well.
There was an episode happened in this notice of condolence published in Sing Chew newspaper.
Now my uncles were planning to file a lawsuit against them if they refused to publicly apologize the mistake and republish the notice.
Hmm… so dramatic.
We erased the “Congratulation” and replaced it with “Condolence”
To be continued…