Chinese Views on Death and Dying Burial Techniques, Rituals and Beliefs of the Common Man

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Chinese religion and strict cultural beliefs are inseparable from the death rites performed. Many different names for death are scattered throughout Chinese history, including an ideogram that depicts a person kneeling in front of their ancestor's bones 1. In Chinese culture, death rites are intricate and well thought out works on preparing one for the afterlife and rebirth. Chinese funeral rites have strict guidelines as to where the rites are to be performed, how the rites are performed (ritual bathing of the corpse), the dress of the attendees and the dead, the transfer of material goods on Earth to the dead, acknowledgement of the deceased and the actual burial of the body. All these sacred rites are performed by specialists (usually…show more content…
Not much unlike Western culture, different colors hint to a time of mourning. Instead of wearing black (like in Western cultures), those who are mourning the deceased in China are seen wearing white clothes, shoes and cloaks that are usually made out of sackcloth or hemp. Although mourning colors differ in different parts of China, white is the universal color of mourning for the Chinese. These mourning clothes are usually ragged, unbleached, unhemmed and white. 5

The corpse must go through a series of cleansings and blessings before it is allowed to be buried. A ritualized bathing of the corpse is required before it goes on to the next step in the rites. In south China the water is not gathered by the family themselves, but rather, bought from a deity of a sacred well. This particular rite is called mai-shui or roughly translated, "buying water". There are

5. Jones, Constance R.I.P. The Complete Book Of Death And Dying New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997 (Pg. 163)

several ways the corpse is cleansed--from scrubbing with the water bought, or a

gentle dab on the forehead with the sacred water. Along with the cleaning is the

donning of new clothes on the corpse.

The next step in the funerary rites would be the transfer of material goods to the dead. Things like paper clothes, cardboard houses, furniture and servants and other things the dead might need in the afterlife would be transferred into the world of the dead by

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