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Honoring Tradition: Elements of a Proper Chinese Funeral Service

Honoring Tradition: Elements of a Proper Chinese Funeral Service

Funeral services hold a profound significance across cultures, serving as a way to honor and commemorate the departed while providing solace and closure to the bereaved. In Chinese culture, these ceremonies are steeped in tradition and carry deep-rooted customs that reflect respect for the deceased and their journey into the afterlife. Understanding the essential elements of a proper Chinese funeral service offers insights into the reverence and cultural significance attached to bidding farewell to loved ones.

1. Filial Piety and Ancestral Reverence:

Central to Chinese funeral customs is the concept of filial piety—honoring and respecting one’s parents and ancestors. A proper Chinese funeral service begins with paying homage to the deceased’s life and their place within the family lineage. Ancestral reverence is deeply ingrained, emphasizing the importance of preserving family heritage and traditions.

2. Funeral Rituals and Etiquette:

Chinese funerals follow a series of rituals and etiquettes, often guided by religious or philosophical beliefs such as Confucianism, Taoism, or Buddhism. These rituals typically involve prayer ceremonies, burning incense, presenting offerings, and chanting of scriptures by monks or religious figures.

3. Preparation of the Deceased:

Before the funeral, the body is prepared with meticulous care. Traditionally, the deceased is washed, dressed in specific garments (often white or other symbolic colors), and laid in the coffin. Personal items, symbolic objects, and auspicious charms might accompany the departed to the afterlife.

4. Duration and Mourning Period:

Chinese funeral customs often include a mourning period, which can vary in length based on regional customs and the deceased’s relationship with the mourners. For example, immediate family members might observe a longer mourning period of up to 100 days, during which they wear somber clothing and avoid celebratory events.

5. Funeral Rites and Offerings:

The funeral ceremony includes various rites, such as the burning of spirit money (joss paper) and offerings of food, flowers, and other symbolic items. These offerings symbolize respect, prosperity, and assistance for the deceased in the afterlife. The burning of incense carries spiritual significance, connecting the living and the departed.

6. Role of Family and Community:

In Chinese culture, the community’s support and participation are crucial during funeral services. Relatives, friends, and community members attend to show their respects and offer condolences to the grieving family. Sharing memories and offering support is integral to the mourning process.

7. Burial and Interment Customs:

The choice between burial and cremation varies among different regions and beliefs within Chinese communities. Burial customs may involve specific locations, such as designated cemeteries or ancestral burial grounds. Ancestral worship is a key aspect, and grave sites are often tended to regularly by family members.

8. Post-Funeral Observances:

Following the funeral, there are customary observances such as memorial ceremonies and rituals on significant dates, including anniversaries of the death or traditional festivals like Qingming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day). These observances ensure the ongoing remembrance and honor of the departed.

9. Modern Influences and Adaptations:

While traditional customs hold significant importance, modern Chinese funeral services might incorporate contemporary elements. This includes technology-enabled tributes, online memorials, or personalized touches to honor the deceased’s life and legacy.

In conclusion, a proper Chinese funeral service embodies a blend of ancient traditions, spiritual beliefs, and familial reverence. It serves as a testament to the rich cultural heritage and values deeply embedded within Chinese society. These rituals and customs not only honor the departed but also provide a means for families and communities to come together, find solace, and celebrate the life of their loved ones.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Chinese Traditional Funeral

Here’s What You Need To Know About Chinese Traditional Funeral

A Chinese traditional funeral is rich in melancholy grandeur and history. It’s a show of respect and honour for one’s history. Customs may differ depending on geography, religion, age, social class, and cause of death. Nonetheless, all traditional Chinese funerals incorporate specific aspects and adhere to protocol about visitation length, clothing code, and colours.

Chinese people think funeral rituals and practices must be rigorously observed, or the family will suffer bad luck.

What Is The Family’s Role During The Funeral?

Historically, Chinese families have costly funerals for their dear ones, as extravagant funerals help define social rank. The family is crucial in organising the funeral. They may seek the assistance of a monk, priest, or other spiritual members who adhere to the family’s religious traditions.

The Chinese traditional funeral mourning period, known as shǒusāng, lasts one year for the first-born son and up to three years for the second-born son, while modern Chinese families observe a 49-day time. Every week during that period, the household prays for their loved ones. 

What happens before the funeral?

When a dear one passes away, various arrangements must be made. One of the first steps a Chinese family may take is to consult with a feng shui master to choose the best day and time for their loved one’s funeral and burial. Suppose a gravesite has not previously been selected. In that case, they will seek the assistance of a feng shui master in selecting a cemetery site with position and direction in mind—often on a hilltop and not ever under a tree.

Chinese families typically honour their loved ones with three days of viewing before the funeral. The deceased will be dressed in his or her finest attire or a traditional white funeral garment. Also, family members who have lived to 80 or older are permitted to wear red or other vivid attire.

If the circumstances permit it, the family may decide to spend the night with their loved one, even making meals on-site. This is known as shuyè.

What happens on a funeral day?

The casket is shut after the visitation period. If family members are around, they will turn away because they think the spirits of those who watch a casket being closed will get trapped in the coffin. Similarly, as the casket is lowered into the grave, relatives and friends turn their backs on it.

The casket remains open during the funeral ceremony. This is considered courteous to the elders and the deceased loved one.

Following the funeral service

Following the funeral, a procession is made to the graveyard or crematory. The departed one’s oldest son or grandchild is expected to lead, holding a huge photograph of the loved one and the incense holder. Additional members of the family will follow the leader. Friends and other visitors follow the family. The traditional Chinese funeral service concludes when a loved one’s casket is dropped into the ground or brought to the crematory.


It is critical to select a funeral home provider who is aware of Chinese traditional funerals and can help you plan a meaningful memorial for your loved one. Professionals in your region can assist you in planning a funeral that honours your family traditions and the wishes of your loved one.