Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Chinese Taoism Funeral

My old friend Crystal passed away about 2 months ago after a big battle with breast cancer that eventually spread all over till her lungs collapsed. She was brave and fought hard till the end knowing that her survival chances were slim. She requested for no life support or medications to prolong her suffering anymore. She knew that her big supportive family members had been showering all their love and attention but she could no longer bear to see them suffer as well. Her 7 loving nephews and nieces were like her own children that she never had. Her final requests was to have the fullest & elaborate Chinese Taoist funeral in accordance to the Hokkien clan's rites. She wanted her funeral wakes to include the Taoism-Buddhist prayers, happy band singing, big loud drummers, paper mansion and street funeral band procession on her funeral day. Crystal wanted to be sent off happily and in style. I was very amused when her family member told me that. It was just her, who always enjoyed the merrily songs and dance.

My friendship with her went back to the late 80s when I was the wildest party animal who went clubbing many nights weekly in Penang. My own clubbing nights were often at the popular Rasa Sayang Hotel's Cinta Discotheque and also Orchard Hotel's The Cinnamon Tree along the coastal areas. Crystal loved the discotheque scenes where she could shake & dance cha-cha very well. She was tall and stood at 5' 10' with a very sweet face which attracted many friends who enjoyed her companionship of an often shy & girl-next-door's giggles covering her mouth. My best friend fell madly in love with her older sister instead and went on hot pursuit to woo her! So my gang of monkeys went clubbing with the 2 sisters as well. Later on, Crystal got acceptance to study at University Science Malaysia and told me that her dancing days were over as she had to focus seriously on her studies! The following year, I left for United States and my best friend married her older sister during my absence. Over the years I did not keep in touch with Crystal but we met just once when I drove over to her house to meet my best friend.

I am sharing this long post of her funeral which might interest some readers from different religious faiths and foreign countries. The 48 photos below will illustrate how a typical Chinese Taoist funeral rites are conducted.


1. The funeral wake was held for 3 nights at her family home.
The casket was placed inside the living room.

2. Her graduation photo was placed on the altar at the end
of her casket and flanked by a pair of paper "male & female servants"
who will serve her in the after world.

3. The prayer altar was set up outside the house with the
scrolls of the Taoism deities.

4. The family ordered this custom made 'Paper Mansion" which would be enjoyed
by the deceased in the next life.

5. There were many boxes of  "money" and " treasures" that
would be burnt later that midnight.

6. Close-up view of the entrance to her mansion. There was
a uniformed guard at the door with some kitchen utensils to use.

7. They also ordered some movies and CD songs with a Flat Screen TV and
satellite TV service! Wow!

8. They served many types of delicious nyonya kuehs and hot black coffee
for the visitors and well wishers. They also had a fabulous chef on
duty to fry yummy Char Kueh Teow for everyone. We all enjoyed
eating and chatting with friends to rekindle the good days.

9. My wife had never met Crystal but she promptly sat down to
chant the whole prayers from the sutra book of DiZang Wang Bodhisattva
to dedicate the merits to Crystal for a good journey.

10. My wife had notified the nephews and nieces to observe the 3 joss sticks
that she had placed on the urn at the start of her long prayers. They were told
that when the 3 joss sticks started to burn at different lengths all the way down,
it would signify an auspicious journey.

11. The brood of nephews and nieces were so excited to see the 3 joss sticks
had really reached the auspicious lengths as per the website's photo above.
The soul of Crystal "communicated" with her older sister who gave their assurance
for her to go in peace to the better realms.

12. The band started to sing some happier songs that final night.

13. The Taoist Monk in yellow robe conducted long prayers and
rituals together with the entire family members.

14. The Taoist Monk led the family members to cross over the
mini heavenly bridge.

15. The niece carried the urn with lighted joss
stick to represent the deceased.

16. At midnight, they placed all the paper offerings, money, treasures and
mansion at the cross junction near the house to burn them all.

17. When all the paper offerings were burnt, it would be sent
instantly to the "after world".

18. The paper mansion being set on fire.


19. An altar was set up outside the house with food and fruit
offerings before the funeral at 2.00pm.

20. The clothes and shoes of Crystal were placed on the chair
with her paper effigy attached. Her clothes & shoes had her DNA.

21. The band sang their final happy songs that could be heard
in the whole neighbourhood.

22. The paper sedan chair was prepared ready to carry 
Crystal's soul which would make its way to the crematorium.

23. It was a very sad moment to have their last look at
their youngest sibling Crystal and bade farewell.
They have 6 siblings and Crystal was a very caring sister
who spent a lot of time doing long prayers before she was sick.
She often showered all her family members with her generous
gifts. They all loved her so much! This made me wonder why
good and kind people always died so young?
Karma Rules.

24. 2 sets of drummers hammered their last thunderous numbers
in front of the casket.

25. Her effigy had been placed on the sedan chair outside
by the road sides.

26.  The Taoist Monk conducted the final rites before
the funeral ceremony.

27. The casket was placed outside the house, right behind the
altar and the hearse transport.

28. The back of hearse transport.

29. The front view of the funeral hearse.

30. All the family members and friends paid their last respects
to the deceased.

31. The funeral cortege left the house and all the mourners walked for
some 2 kilometers away before boarding the chartered buses.

32. The sombre funeral procession.

33. The funeral street band followed by the Taoist Monk
and the sedan chair.


34. The final place - United Hokkien Cemeteries.

35. This is the foyer area of the crematorium.

36. The coffin was placed outside the entrance to the
cremation chamber.

37. The drummer giving his final beatings on the big drum
for a good send off.

38. Final rites conducted by the Taoist Monk before
the cremation starts.

39. The body was cremated inside the chamber while the Taoist 
Monk led the family members to the open space to send off the

40. The family members circled the sedan chair with prayers
before lighting it on fire.

41. The final send off.

42. This terrace, houses all the other urns at the columbarium.

43. There was a food canteen with the comforts of air cond
and dining tables for the mourners and well wishers.
They served white porridge with dishes for our lunch.

44. This is a common sight at Chinese funerals where they
would place a bucket of fresh water with petals of assorted
flowers. The colourful and pretty flowers are always believed 
to contain good frequencies.
This water would be used to wipe our hands and faces
to help purify & brighten up our well being after attending
funerals which are deemed as "Yin" occasions.


45. The funeral undertakers had collected the ashes and placed
them inside the metal pan for the family to sort out.

46. The ashes have been sorted out and arranged inside the white
marble urn. The undertaker sealed it with glue and tied with a 
red fabric ribbon.

47. The Taoist Monk conducted a special prayer to bless the new
niche to place the urn. This columbarium was inside another
temple grounds of another location in Penang.

"May Her Soul Rest In Peace
In The Land Of Eternity."


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