The day before yesterday (Thursday) we attended the funeral of my wife’s aunt who died a few days earlier in hospital, she was 86. Chinese funerals, as may be expected, are a little different from UK ones.
It took us a while to arrive due to sitting in very heavy traffic jams for about an hour due to the large and numerous road works being carried out for the upcoming underground rail system extensions everywhere and they are particularly obstructive in the part of town we had to go through (Buji) Rose did not really know where we were going (no surprise there) and she set the GPS up and that managed to take us to the wrong side of the mountain where the funeral home was. We then had to rely on her on the cell phone to her nephew to get better direction. I did find that after we arrived and I set the GPS Coordinates into the set that when we had to return there later it refused to accept the coordinates that I had given it and still sent us the wrong way!.
Anyway, I digress, We at last arrived at the home at around 4.30 ish in the afternoon, only to be told that it wouldn’t start till around 6.30 as they were waiting for Rose’s sister to turn up, 6.30 came and went, still no sister, in the meantime the individual members of the family that were there stood in front of a picture of the aunt that had candles and incense in front of it and did a few bows standing and then head to floor bows while kneeling. I just filmed and photographed the event for them as they had asked and then we went into a back area to see auntie laid on in her coffin, she was in a nice bright Chinese costume with a hat on surrounded by plants.
I will point out that this funeral area is huge and has several crematoriums in its grounds, they are of different levels of grandeur from plain to the extravagant with varying prices to suit. They apparently hire the individual rooms for the whole day as opposed to the UK way of several cremations in the one room per day, here there is only the one and it takes more than a day as she was not cremated on the day we were there but her son stayed with her overnight and she was cremated the next day. This is normal practice I am told that the relatives or relative stays with them overnight to see them on their way.
As with the previous time I went to a graveyard in Rose’s home town, they burn paper copies of worldly things to take with them, outside was a 3 foot high paper house that had been burnt previously by someone, and in the back of the room we were in I saw a paper Mercedes Benz complete with chauffeur and another paper house for burning, Rose and another cousin burnt some large paper money in the furnace, which unlike the UK you can see easily from the room.
After 6pm we all went for a meal while we waited for the sister to arrive, and when we returned I was told that she had been and gone, so that was a waste of time. There is no actual ceremony at these places, no preacher/monk/holy man to preside over the proceedings , they each just stand there with a couple of joss sticks and pray for a moment or two in front of the deceased’s photograph, and that was that, apart from the small picnic they had while waiting in the ante room, and the restaurant meal which supplied the overnight food for the cousin, nothing else much occurred.
One other thing, in a nearby shelter were three great burners, which at first I thought were for the poorer folk but turned out that they were for burning the clothes of the deceased, so you don’t need to worry about getting rid of their clothes here.
One odd thing I noticed while walking round waiting, well two really, one was that there was a basketball court in the grounds and the other was that there were these old military multi barrelled canon type things around! spook basketball anyone!
And then it was time to go home, we took a couple of the female relatives home and then home ourselves and we got home around 11pm, so we had a long day mainly just sitting and waiting and not really doing anything in particular. For me at least there was no padre who didn’t know you from Adam speaking stuff he doesn’t know about you.