Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The rituals of our lives

Being Chinese means being born into a culture full of rituals. Western people would find it interesting to know we have rituals for everything.

Engagements, marriage, giving birth and yeah, even death.

We have had the third death in the family. First it was my grandmother, then my aunt, then my uncle. Granted, they were all suffering from cancer and it was inevitable. Still, you can guess the times we have had to do the burial rituals.

When Chinese do wakes, you would generally see food offerings on the front of the casket. This would consist of 3 kinds of fruit, maybe 3 different dishes, a rice bowl and some wine in a cup. The chopsticks would be placed vertically on the rice (and this is why you don't stick the chopstick like that when you are eating with chinese... it is considered bad manners)

Depending on the family, they would either choose to have some buddhist monks chants some prayers every afternoon. (this was done during the wake of my grandmother but not with my aunt and uncle) They would chant and chant and then *dong* ring a chime... chant again, ring a chime... you get the picture.

The most interesting part for most people though are the paper offerings that we do. As with most cultures, we believe in the after life. Most chinese also practice some sort of ancestor worship. The believe in burning "paper money" or money for the dead to use in the afterlife. In chinese wakes (compared to Filipino wakes) you would see paper houses in front of the chapel. The houses would not only be normal houses but ones complete with maids. You can also see paper mache TV's (flatscreen with sony bravia written on top),  washing machines, cars (mercedes benz) and sometimes planes. (when you look inside the plane, you can see they provide the dead with a passport too!) - one time, I heard someone say, the plane has no pilot, how can he (the dead) fly it? He does not know how to fly!
paper money

original state of paper money. we had to do origami on them to make them look like gold inggots 

In the Philippines, the art of paper mache is not as wide as say in, hongkong. They have the widest range of items. I have seen jewelry (sets of necklace and earring), shoes, dresses and now I heard, even cameras, ipads and iphones.

If you're wondering what they do with these, they usually burn them after the dead is buried or cremated---. To accompany them to the afterlife. So, sometimes, even if you don't have a nice house or car in real life, you may get it in the afterlife!!!

Note: I asked for a ferrari in the afterlife... just in case, it's made of paper after all....

paper houses we burn for use of the dead (some are bigger than this)

modern day items (in paper) that you can send to the dead.

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