Traditional Chinese Burial Customs

How ancient beliefs continue to inspire Chinese funeral rites
Chinese Hillside

Chinese Hillside (Photo credit: smthng)

There are many interesting aspects of traditional Chinese funeral practices, but because there is so much to discuss, in this post I’m going to focus solely on the burial component. This is something that is taken very seriously in Chinese culture. There is a prescribed form of funeral rites for an elder; these have to do with the person’s position in society, age, marital status, and other factors. One thing that is universal, however, is the belief that red clothing should never be worn by the deceased, as this is the color of happiness and is believed to turn the person into a ghost. The most common color choices for the clothing of the departed are white, black, brown, and blue. In addition, before being placed in the coffin, the person’s face is covered with a yellow cloth, and his or her body is covered with a light blue one.

Typically, Chinese cemeteries are located on hillsides, because this is thought to be a good omen; the higher the grave’s location, the better. At the time of the funeral, the coffin is nailed shut to symbolize the separation of the living and the dead. Everyone present must turn away while this is done, because viewing it is considered to bring bad luck. Family members and relatives then throw a handful of earth into the grave before it is filled. The eldest son of the deceased retrieves some of the earth from the grave to be brought home, where prayers will be made over it by family members in order to bring good luck for the future.

  • For more on these funeral customs, visit this website
  • To learn about Baha’i Faith burial rites, check out this post
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3 Responses to Traditional Chinese Burial Customs

  1. avatar Wendy says:

    We place much significance on Feng Shui which determines the colors of fabrics used and the orientation of the burial site.

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  2. avatar M.G. says:

    I had no idea that Chinese cemeteries are located on hillsides… it’s a beautiful concept!

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  3. avatar steve milo says:

    ’twas ‘n alright description.

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