What the Chinese do with their corpses

Chinese funeral, burial culture in China

Chinese burial rituals are very complicated, depending on the age of the deceased, the cause of death, marital status, social status of the deceased and his religious beliefs, the burial rituals could be very different.

History of Chinese burial

Why are there so many historical relics hidden underground in China? The reason is because of the Chinese funeral culture.

Since ancient times (approximately since the Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1,556 BC to 1,046 BC), the Chinese believed that the souls of the dead lived on in another world: the underworld and graves are their earthly abode .

In addition to a traditional, grand and extravagant funeral, the living also buried many grave goods for the dead, such as gold, silver, bronze goods, pottery and other valuable items. This is the reason why so many historical relics are hidden underground in China and why grave robbery has been so flourishing in Chinese history.

A famous example is the largest underground mausoleum in the world - the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The mausoleum extends over an area of ​​56 square kilometers. To date, more than 50,000 historical relics have been unearthed in the mausoleum. Around 9,000 terracotta warriors were buried. The site is about 2 kilometers from the Qin Emperor's mausoleum, and they were created as guardians of the Qin Emperor's mausoleum.

You may be interested in traveling to Terracotta Army.

Mourning color in China

The main mourning color in China is White, the funeral is usually decorated with white colors. The relatives of the deceased wear white clothing and have ties black gauze on the arm.

Age plays a very important role in Chinese culture. The color guests should wear at the funeral depends on the age of the deceased.

If the deceased was less than 80 years old, guests should wear traditional mourning colors such as black or white. However, if the deceased was over 80 years old, the color pink can also be worn. Over 80 is considered longevity, and people are encouraged to celebrate rather than mourn.

A traditional Chinese burial

There is a specific procedure for a funeral, however the procedure is slightly different in each area of ​​China, but somewhat like the description below.

The family of the deceased washes the face and body of the deceased clean. Then the dead person is placed in a coffin. The family will let other relatives and friends know. The relatives and friends come and stay with this family for at least 3 days because the family should ask a monk which day according to the lunar calendar is the best day to bury the dead. The family invites Buddhist or Taoist monks and the monks say prayers. Some families have a tradition of crying or screaming loudly, some families hire an actor to cry extra loudly. Food is offered as a sacrifice for the dead and incense sticks are burned. Paper money is also burned and sent to the dead in the subterranean world or in the afterlife. It is believed that the dead need the money in the other world as well.

When the day of the funeral comes, all relatives put on white clothes. The men carry the coffin to a certain place. Since many Chinese believe in Fengshui, you have to find a good place for the dead so that the family is happy. Fireworks are set off and paper money is thrown into the sky along the way. We believe that some invisible corners hide evil spirits for which you have to pay toll. Otherwise the deceased cannot go through. If bribery doesn't work, fireworks are burned and the noise drives away the evil spirits and the women put pomelo leaves in warm water. After the funeral you have to wash your hands with this water, it drives away bad luck.

The modern burials

Nowadays, a funeral is much easier and more economical than it was in the old days.

The modern burial in China is similar to that in Europe, only the mourning color is "white". In the Chinese cities there are almost only cremations. When you're dead, the family holds a simple funeral service at the funeral home. Colleagues, friends and relatives come here, bring a wreath and give money to the dead man's family. This is called a bojin with the Chinese characters 帛 金. This funeral money should be presented in a white envelope. The urns are buried in the cemetery or kept in urn halls. After the funeral, people meet for dinner. A coin in Chinese is called Yinbi and it sounds similar to Bixie, which means that you drive away bad luck. That's why everyone gets a coin wrapped in red paper when they eat.

The new eco burials

There is now a lack of soil in all cities in China. There are not enough graves and cemeteries in China, a grave in some cities is almost as expensive as an apartment. In order to save arable land, the need for eco-burials is increasing in China. The ashes or urns are buried in the ground and a tree, flowers or grass are planted over them. Sometimes the ashes are simply scattered in a river, lake, or sea.

Celebrations for the dead

In China there are 2 festivals for the dead: the Qingming festival and the Qiyueban festival.

The Qingming Festivaltakes place on April 5th. The Qingming Festival is the day for the bereaved to pray for their ancestors and ask for their protection. That should bring luck to the bereaved. At the Qingming Festival, almost all Chinese go to the graves to take care of the graves. That means they clean the tombstones, burn incense sticks and incense candles and sanctify their finished food and some flowers. They send their thoughts and respect to their ancestors.

The Qiyueban Festival (Zhongyuan Festival)takes place on July 14th or 15th according to the lunar calendar. The Zhongyuan Festival is believed to turn the dead into a hungry ghost. That spirit is now trapped in hell. The King of Hell will release this spirit in a month when the Chinese moon is August. This month the living family has the opportunity to feed this spirit. If the family forgets about this or does not feed him, the family gets into great trouble. This type of belief has been around for hundreds of years.

Bizarre funeral

Walking corpses in Xiangxi in western Hunan

Xiang Xi is a very mysterious place in western Hunan Province. Running corpses is a traditional Miao custom in the western region. The corpse inspector rumors were very popular during the Qing Dynasty. Some people believed that the bodies of the corpse inspectors were able to bring the bodies of the corpses back into a way of life and that these bodies can now run on their own again. As we all know, so-called mysterious corpse diving is just a custom about the return of the soul from people who have died abroad. Their families hired corpse divers to bring the dead back home, but the witchcraft of the traditional Mao people in Xiang Xi contributed to other mysterious myths.

The heavenly burial

There are celestial burials in Tibetan and Mongolian areas. The taboos, manners and customs of heavenly burial differ depending on the region. One thinks that after death the soul passes into the next birth, the corpse is just a senseless “coat”. In Tibetan territory, lamas are invited to a prayer ceremony to alleviate the dying person's pain and fear. At the heavenly burial the corpse is cut open, the vultures eat the corpse. The Tibetans are particularly lucky when the body of the deceased has disappeared. The complete consumption of the body means that the dead person has not committed any sins in his life and thus arrives in "Paradise in Heaven".

Are you interested in Tibet?

Enigmatic coffins hanging on rocks

Many so-called hanging coffins are discovered in China. The coffins were placed in man-made caves or in natural rock holes. That was a special kind of burial in ancient China. About 2000 to 3000 years ago, this type of burial was very popular in southern China. Up to now we do not know how the coffins could be placed on the rocks over a hundred meters high without the help of machines and why the coffins were placed on the cliff.

More about the hanging coffins on the cliffs