Chinese Funeral part two (where sons matter)

Dang, since I am in such a mellow mood, let me continue part two of Chinese funeral. (part one here)

I do not know whether it has to do with religion or not but certain religion placed a lot of emphasis on the male gender. Hinduism and Taoism for example. It is a fact that Chinese and Indian women do feel certain pressure about giving birth to baby boys. So, over here when I generalise Chinese, it means Chinese who follow Taoism practice.

So, I am the lucky one. Sort of. When my father-in-law passed away in 1988, I was just married for barely months. We knew he was dying. We had lived in for two years and therefore, it was the sensible thing to do.

He has four sons, the eldest with two sons and a daughter. Sons number two and three weren’t married. (son #2 is late 50s and still unmarried now!). But on his tombstone, after consulting some seedy fengshui master, was engraved with five grandsons and five grand-daughters name. Go figure? He had only 2+1 then. There are 10 names.

And do you know that daughter-in-laws names aren’t included on the tombstone? Only sons, daughters and grandchildren from the sons. Which means, I can easily cabut and find other ‘ah heah’ hor? LOL. Because technically, the mother’s (daughter-in-law) name is not recognised, only her daughter. So biased……

Fast forward to when my mother-in-law died, somewhere in 1999, I had productively made three grandsons. Back to the names first:

The two elder grandsons from my eldest brother-in-law have been fixed as ƦĀ„Ā­ (follow by second name). So, when I had my eldest son, I followed the arrangement. When I had my second one, the guy is suppose to be called Yet Hoe. But I was expecting a daughter who is supposed to name Ling Poh (ptuiii, stupid fengshui master almost give my daughter a pornish name or worst, in Hokkien it would have sounded as lau leng poh or old tits). I had another suprise son ‘cos the scan was wrong. I forget that his name is supposed to be Yet Hoe and gave him the fifth name instead. So, there, five names taken.

Now, the Taoist has a funny way to deal with funeral wake. The deceased is almost like still living in the house. At every meals, we had to serve the person a normal meal with a boiled egg and rice. A pair of chopstick will be stuck to the rice. That’s why parents forbid their children to stick chopsticks into their bowl. Bad luck, man.

Each morning, I had to wake up at 6am, bring a basin of water, kneel in front of my mother-in-law and call her to wake up, wash your face. (Message to my own kids – next time dun ever wake me at 6am to wash my face or else I will jump out of the coffin and strangle you. I wake at 11am, remember?) Then, I will bring a freshly made Milo/coffee/whatever the deceased used to drink. Same with the night time. Wash your face, go to sleep. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. Sweet dreams.

Now, after the ‘cure the deceased’, it was time to send her off. First, they build a bridge (with some platform) and cover it with a blue cloth. All the deceased descendants will queue up according to hierachy. Yeah, over here, the daughter-in-law comes before the daughter. Wuah, ada pahwer! LOL. Me a newly married daughter-in-law way ahead of the eldest daughter (during my fil’s funeral 11 yrs earlier, I mean)

So, this sai kong will bring his ice-cream bell and bring us to run a few rounds across the bridge. As we go, we throw pennies/1 and 5 cents coins onto the ground. You know Chinese la….live oso bribe, dead oso bribe. Those pennies are for the lost souls under the bridges. We are supposed to lead my mother-in-law to her final destination.

Now, that piece of blue cloth is very much revered. Only the eldest son will get it. The sai kong trusted it to me, told me that it is sacred and I must make bolster case with it for my sons ‘cos he know that we are the organiser cum paymaster LOL. (tiu, we paid almost 20K and all I get is a blue cloth that had been stepped by so many people? Just joking.) It is supposed to protect them. I am hopeless with sewing but when Vincent was home, I used it for him, pleading to my parents-in-law to protect him etc etc. (Now you know why I lost my faith huh?)

After we sent off the old lady, we reached the city. Sort of after the departure hall, we cannot pass immigration. So, only the sons and grandsons can follow because they got permit. They build a maze there with cardboards and sticks. The sons and grandsons (those old enough) had to kandar, i.e. with a long pole, they hang two bags of heavy rice over their shoulder . Mr. Sai Kong who only carry his bells start running around the maze and the son who shoulder the burden (i.e. the mil’s luggage la) had to follow exactly his steps. Cannot cheat, cannot shortcut. He kept running faster and faster with his sword. Poor eldest bil got tired, pass to the 2nd one and etc etc.

Finally, mil reach the pearly gates. The mercedes, villa, servants etc are then piled up with the gold and silver papers. All of us had to hold our hands and run in circles around the properties while these paper stuffs are burning. Crazy man, can zhng your eyebrow curly with the heat. Imagine a bunch of scouts at campfire. Round the mulberry bush we go….

Kiasu relatives kept telling us not to let go of our hands or else the robbers (roll eyes) will come and steal the properties before mil got them. See? Chinese are very quirky, aren’t they?

Well, that was one hell of a dramatic funeral. Thinking back, I am glad that we had it because it somehow gave us a peace of mind that we had done everything that would please my mother-in-law. Do you know that money spent on such, if given out freely with an open heart, will be ‘compensated’ back to you? One way or another, one cannot be short of money to pay the undertakers if one has willingly spend it for the deceased. It has happened to us many times, whereby we collected surprisingly big amount of ‘pek kim’ (donations) to cover expenses. Therefore, don’t be stingy and you will not be short of money.

Funerals are very important part of a person’s live. Therefore, at all times, do what you think will please the deceased and not what is convenient for the living.

Oh yeah, the undertaker, Ah Chuan of Modern Casket is quite the buddy with my atm. So, I enjoyed sitting down with him or the sai kong to listen to the reasonings. During my own mother’s funeral, I asked Ah Chuan when a deceased will meet up with the previous deceased spouse. He told me after the seventh day. So, I asked him, wuah…so far to walk, must take seven days only can reach the other side? LOL. Ah Chuan said usually, the dead doesn’t know they are dead and still hovers around the house. Only on the seventh day, she/he realised because the fingernails have turned purple and decided to cross over. Eeeewwwss…*smacks Ah Chuan’s head.

Anyway, Ah Chuan was also summoned to handle Vincent’s funeral and he actually cried at that funeral. I was surprised to see it and was deeply touched. He wanted to lay Vincent to rest in the casket but I asked to do it personally. God bless undertakers with hearts!

So, if there’s something strange, in the neighbourhood, who you wanna call? (sing to the tune of
Ghostbuster!) Ah Chuan! Who wants his number? šŸ™‚ Kehkehkeh….

24 thoughts on “Chinese Funeral part two (where sons matter)

  1. (Message to my own kids – next time dun ever wake me at 6am to wash my face or else I will jump out of the coffin and strangle you. I wake at 11am, remember?)


    I cannot tahan this sentence, man! Laughed my head off! =)

    But like your FIL, my grandpa has a list of “names” for his (then) unborn grandsons. The names will then be taken up one by one. And yea, we girls do not have to follow any of those sequence, hence my name =)

  2. Reminds me not to buy purple finger nail polish for my girlfriend(s). A full Taoist funeral should be included in the Penang tourism brochure; sure to attract more gwai loh’s. If nobody dies, can always use stuntman (or stuntwoma) mah.

  3. During my grandparents’ funerals, we followed the priest, ran and jumped around everywhere. He would also conjure fiery performances and sang sob stories (“I’m going off, please don’t forget me, please take care of yourselves”, etc – to make us all cry even louder!!). The best part was we had a sand dragon with coins hidden everywhere within it and we all dug for the coins out to keep!

  4. Thanks for a very enlightening post. Never knew of such customs:healing the deceased, cross bridge etc.

  5. LOL.. what an eye-opening post!!

    Seriously, I do not believe funeral plays such a big part in a person’s life lar… šŸ˜› For the living, maybe it is a kind of consolation or redemption to make up. Therefore, it is the living who has something to prove (to themselves or sometimes others because of ‘face’…), not the dead. šŸ™‚ Haiyah, wat good is a big lavish funeral when filial piety should be shown to the person when they’re alive?

  6. Wah, auntie sure got photographic memory ya. Can somemore remember down to such details after so many years. Also, are u sure u are not Taoist anymore?…with so much knowledge at hand.

  7. My grandma had some similar rituals and it really scare all the young grandchildren. Probably why most of them converted to Christianity.

  8. jen – LOL, true true. If you do not really connect to the deceased, it was one, long suffering period because it lasts for five days. And much earlier, we aren’t even allowed to bath and had to sleep on the floor next to the coffin!

    Prometeuz – Not that long ago mah, only like 8 yrs and it was held at my house. Taoist – Oh I do know a lot, like which god when birthday etc until now. But heh, now I can tell them, got shortcut one. Just accept Christ and got express flight already. Of course la, I don’t say it to them, nanti kena whack.

    helen – True lor, if do it for the sake of reaping rewards, it is very disgusting. But my mil dem sayang her youngest son and she put her trusts in me to carry on the legacy so I did it for her sake lor.

  9. wmd – Hahaha, some women got cultural shock when married into homes like these but I had my earlier experience with my father’s funeral so more or less, I am very organised.

    Jeremy – I hope these emphasis on baby boys will one day be overcome because even now, that still exists amongst the older generations mother-in-laws. They give preferential treatment, you know.

    Lil’ Patchee – Yeah, I was touched to read about your grandparents. Glad that you wrote it cos it does help with our Chinese roots. I still remember the coins you had all over your house.

    fishtail – LOL, you are so farnee. Hey, the meme?

    SA – You must read Lil Patchee’s post. She also wrote something about her grandparents’ funerals recently.

    Pef – My in-laws five grand-daughters name, no one take it up cos only one other girl was born .

  10. funerals can be kinda “fun” IF the deceased has lived to a ripe old age…all the ppl, pomps, drums & cymbal beats are kinda lau-juak…like a party lidat.

    ah chuan sounds like a very nice undertaker who’s not “immune” to his nature of job. i’m sure u hold him in very high regards.

  11. when my old man kong kah kiau that time, we also did like what u did. serve breakfast and all. but when my mother went sell salted eggs, we short cut everything.

    immediately after comin back from the cemetary, the sai kong performed the “tuit how” ritual and invited my mother up to the alter together with my father, grandma and grandpa. since she already has a place to sit, we don’t need to servre her breakfast and stuffs anymore.

    everybody senang! that’s part of advancement i guess. and no wonder i didn’t prosper.

  12. foodcrazee – Yeah, it can be tremendous pressures cos everything cost money, lots of them. And when siblings don’t share equally, well, can get bitter too. Haih…glad those are behind me.

    ahpek – Heh, sometimes, I also notice that such things do have some repercussion lor. But of course, it is bad to bitch about them la. We did go the extra mile. We don’t blame the dead if we got sui seow lar, and never ask them for help to get 4D. But there are some who do that, I give you pig, you give me good luck for another year. Lucky I am a Christian now, so no such burden. My God will kau tim hampalang. Yay!!!!!

    Now…i still cannot decide if I want to go Ching Ming this Sat and Sun, four graves.

    sooi2 – It is good for the clans to congregate and rare chance to catch up with each other also. Very fun, I must say.

  13. that was good! now i get it. i went thru a similar thing when I was younger..i had NO clue what the heck was going one wanted to explain to me in ENGRISH. sigh.

  14. So elaborate lah, all the funeral rites.
    I echo Helen’s sentiments as well. It makes us feel good and safe, that we have done our part in sending off the deceased. It all bores down to what we believe.
    I always hear my mum say…”if want to show filial piety, do it when I am alive. Not when I am dead, cos I can’t see or hear anything then.”

  15. kw – Yeah, for my hubby it is all the way..until eternity. Hahaha.

    moo_t – Once we know the significance of it, it does make it more personal, right?

    QOTH – Yeah, they do that usually. If the spouse is not dead, they also engrave it and colour the paint with gold colour. When the person died, then, they paint it red. After I had my 3rd son, we got his name engraved to the tombstone when my mother-in-law died. You know, Chinese are mighty proud so they want to display the names to show they got lots of descendants

  16. And one more thing. Chinese women are always more than willing to “prepare” an empty grave for themselves right next to their husbands’ graves.

    The younger generation will say “choi!” but the older generation thinks otherwise. They think it is only right they even after death, they are places next to their husbands.

  17. hmm…i wonder wat’s the deal if the widow married the second time?? the empty grave will go to waste?

  18. sooi2 – I think by the time the old man died, the old lady probably have lived past her ‘marry again age’ LOL so it is pretty safe to assume she will go in there too. But come to think of it, also true hor, dun pway-pway go commit a grave together with the husband and later wanna marry again.

    Pelf – When my father died, my mom was only in her late fourties. There wasn’t any doubt about anything (like what Sooi2 asked) and her plot was together. Mom died only like 20+ years later. I think it gives a sense of belonging and also makes one more faithful to the deceased spouse hor?

    Interesting topic both you and sooi2 brought up. Never thought about this before.

  19. Lost my mom, 1 month and 4 days, in the hands of bloody doctors… farking beach hospital, blood suckers…
    still coming to terms bcoz my mom was healthy on admission but med negli caused her to die and now i’m going to have sim chong pnee because her med bills were about 1/3 of million ringgit. I missed her alot and still think about her.
    I lost my dad 5 years ago and I went through the sai kong sh*t, but this time around… was more expensive bcoz we went through a specialist in semenyih all in close to 90k…

    Been thinkin these past few weeks and wonder how come we are such suckers…

    And all I can say is despite all this, i learnt one true thing from my mom is that TO BE SELFLESS… because according to the packaged sai kong during the last day of the wake, the weather was breezy but calm and that its because she loves us very much… and that did it for me.

    can anyone recommend me a blog for medical negligence in malaysia against a so called “beach” hospital

  20. Hi Frank, I am so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. And wow, such huge sum. Re the beach hospital (heh, took me a while to translate it to Bee-em) I know someone’s baby died of denggue, due to mis-diagnosis there too. Usually, it is one long battle. Previously, I also wrote a letter demanding the hospital where my #4 son was born to explain certain things to me. It was just one freaking unofficial letter from me, asking for some stats. They took 3 months to reply with a lawyer’s letter. I was too tired to pursue it. So, I hope you find peace. But it wouldn’t hurt to just give them a little scare and ask for some BW explanation.

    Why not check out MMR
    and see if you can find any.

    All the best to you. Peace!

Comments are closed.