Friday, 20 March 2009

I saw a funeral today

The image above was taken from our balcony ....... the funeral was held over at the HDB apartment block near by. A funeral Wake is usually held in the Void Deck of these apartment blocks.

I heard all the drumming earlier today, but didn't go out. Then an hour or so later when I heard it again - much louder this time - I decided to grab the camera and take at least one image if I could.

Was not easy to take it on such an angle, but you can see the bus behind carrying the people and many of them walking along side. Because you cannot see it too well due to the tree's I have captured some off the internet so you will get an idea of what a funeral is like here in Singapore.

The following images are not mine:

The Chinese funeral ceremony and the procession of the dead depends upon the financial resources of the family. The burial of the dead is a very serious matter to the Chinese, they believe that improper funeral arrangements will cause bad fortune.

Special clothing must be worn by the family members of the deceased. The children and daughters-in-law wear black with a sackcloth hood while the grandchildren wear blue.

and a little bit of the Traditional Chinese Folks Religion (Folk Taoism)

About 67% of the Singapore Chinese still adhere to their traditional folks religion in varying degrees of devoutness. This group tends to speak Mandarin and/or Chinese dialects at home and follow a Chinese-influenced lifestyle. Most the people in this group came from the lower and middle classes, though some of them belong to the upper-class. Some claim to be Buddhist and the remainder Taoist. They generally practise a mixed form of different religion comprising of buddhist, taoist and other folk practices and even local beliefs.

Despite the mixture of practices and beliefs, many of these rites and customs actually have their origin to be tranced back to Taoism belief. Ancestor worship and worship of various deities, burning of joss offerings and Heaven worship are good examples of Taoist traditions.

Most of the Taoist traditional practitioner would place one or two altars at home, or along the corridors of their HDB flats. In their homes, they will have a house altar, worshipping popular Chinese deities, who are actually Taoist divinity. Some examples are the 'Deity of War' (Guan Gong), Da Bogong (Earth Deity), Guan Yin (She is a Buddhist Divine too), Kitchen deity etc. A hanging urn or small altar, often painted red, may also be seen. They also hang small urns filled with ash outside the house; this is where joss sticks are placed and used as offerings to the Great Jade Emperor whom represent the Heaven and all other divines in the Heavenly Realm.

When there is a death in the family, the relatives of the deceased will organise a funeral ceremony. These ceremonies are usually held at HDB void decks The deceased is placed in a wooden coffin. Buddhist or Taoist monks are then called to preside, and they chant mantras and prayers for the deceased to ward off evil spirits. During the funeral ceremony, the relatives of the deceased will burn incense paper and pray for the deceased. A typical funeral ceremony will last around 3 or 5 days.

At the end of the ceremony, a hearse will transport the body to the crematorium, where the body will be cremated. As the body is cremated, the monks are also present to pray for the deceased. The ashes are placed in an urn, which is then placed in a columbarium or temple, where an ancestral tablet is used to indicate the location of the urn.

Due to lack of understanding in the Taoist religion in Singapore, majority of Taoists remains in the 'Folk Taoism' sector and true meanings behind various rites, teachings of the religion, proper code of conduct and rites are often overlook and left out. However, in recent years, many Taoist organizations, temples are pushing proper religion's education, imparting orthodox Taoist belief and teachings. Rising the self-awarness of the Taoist community.

Taoist Mission(Singapore) is one Taoist religion society which promote Chinese heritage and Orthodox Taoist teachings and practices.


Oswald Chong said...

I saw one of these funerals in San Francisco.

Debbie said...

Thanks for sharing that Leone, it is fascinating to see how other cultures celebrate death and the rituals they participate in.

The Undertaker said...

The Chinese are very superstitious when it comes to death and funerals. I was in China for 3 weeks and never saw a sight. I was hardly able to get someone to talk about it. I worked with Chinese families in San Francisco and they are the most interesting funerals to partake in. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world.

Pam said...

Larry and I were fortunate to have gone to a Chinese funeral here. I say fortunate, because it was such an amazing experience. It is truly a blessing to be able to experience Singaporean culture up close...I don't take it for granted for a minute! Great post Leone!