Chinese Taoist funeral guide for the Dummies
Posted on June 6th, 2008 by Lilian • Filed under: Faith
I am going to write this down before memory fails me in future. Anyway…choi, choi, choi, it is not something I want to encounter at all so let this be the last there is.
Today, at the funeral, I wore the ‘black’ pangkat. Fuyoh, damn emo, I tell you. You see, mourners have ‘rankings’. Let me write this down :
Gunny sack type, pinned on the left hand collar – For the children
Gunny sack with red cloth – For the godchildren
Black cloth – For the younger brothers and sisters and cousins
Black with yellow – For the grandchildren (from the daughter) I think blue/black for the son’s children
Blue – For the children of the siblings, i.e. the nephews
Green – For the great grandchildren of the nephews
HEAVEN AND HELL, TAOIST STYLE
As a child, I had always been fascinated with this concept of heaven and hell. To make things easy to understand, there are drawings to depicts hell and all its torture chambers.
When a person died, the person will go through a few things. With an elaborate Taoist style grand funeral rites, here are some of the steps done.
1) Calling the departed souls of the deceased family. E.g. They have a ceremony to call the souls of the deceased parents, elder relatives and etc to join in the feast. Foods are laid out on the offering table.
HEALING OF THE DECEASED
The nun (in gray) will sing some Teochew songs about being a filial child and she acted out the scene of climbing hills and falling down etc to pluck herbs to cure the deceased. Then, she will boil the herbs. Real charcoal stove with real boiling water. The leaves are guava leaves. Normally, the eldest daughter-in-law will kneel there to fan the fire and then, boil the pot of leaves for a while. After that, she will pour a bowl of the ‘soup’ and offer to the deceased. I had done it for my mother-in-law. Damn sad kind of rite. Real smoke, real fire, real boiling water and real tears. (in the absence of DIL, the daughter will do it)
BREAKING DOWN THE CITY GATES
When the deceased has been healed, then, the monk will fight with some demon to get through to the city (of heaven, I think). There are costumes drama with spears and kungfu. The city has four gates and once the doors are broken…..
CARRYING THE LUGGAGE
Then, the eldest son will carry the luggages to send off the deceased to the city. He will carry a stick and balancing on both ends are rice. I have the video but it is not polite for me to show it. So you imagine the son carrying (kandar) the heavy load and run around the four gates in a maze. The monk will run around in circles and the son will follow. It is not easy because the load is heavy and he has to follow exactly the steps the monk took.
CROSSING THE BRIDGE
Firstly, the nun will plead with their kind of St. Peter. The guy with very fierce looking face (make-up) will carry a book and jot down all the good deeds of the persons.
When that has been done, all the mourners will then go around this bridge. It is a modified bridge and we went around in circles. The mourners will be led by this other nun and the saddest part is when it was the final round. She will cry real tears and leaving farewell messages. My little boy said, “Why the auntie sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks?” The good thing is I do not understand Teochew so it is not as sad.
BURNING THE HOUSE AND PROPERTIES
Finally, all the paper houses and paper money are burnt in a bonfire. All the mourners will go around the mulbery bush kind of circle and leave when the fire gets too big.
A ceremony like the above usually costs more than RM4K. I think the going price now is probably RM5K-6K for that 4-5 hours of funeral rites. I think there are least 10 people involves, including monks, nuns and musicians. The thing about such spending is usually, if the bereaved family feels comforted to do it and wish to do it for the sake of the deceased, the money will somehow finds it way. I mean, if you can afford it and you think the deceased would ‘enjoy’ it, do it and somehow, you will collect enough bereavement donations to cover the costs. Please do not ever chide people for spending the money and not donating it to charity. I feel we have to respect bereaved people’s wishes. (my rant here) But don’t ever spend it with the hope of reaping good returns by way of asking the deceased to bless you. Then, it is a selfish thing to do.
Now that other faiths understand the rationale of such elaborate funeral rites, do you agree that whatever was done, it was done with filial piety and not just superstitious beliefs?
The chief monk whom I call soo-hoo (sifu) asked me if I enjoyed the show. *grins*
*hands out angpow and sweets to every reader for reading such morbid stuffs*