View Full Version : Chinese mourning traditions

05-21-2012, 01:26 AM
My MC is paying respect to the family of his diseased Chinese American friend. I need to describe the scene. It takes place three weeks after the funeral, which I believe is referred to as 'third seven' period. I would appreciate any cultural notes about mourning traditions and customs.

Siri Kirpal
05-21-2012, 02:34 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I'm not Chinese. But I can tell you that mourners wear white clothes.

If your MC wears red, that would be a big blunder. If he's not Chinese, they wouldn't mind if he wore blue or black.


Siri Kirpal

05-21-2012, 02:42 AM
When my grandparents passed away, my cousins and I folded joss paper (bamboo paper with gold or silver leaf on it) into shapes resembling gold ingots. We burned the paper at their gravesites to give them spending money for the afterlife. It was important to burn LOTS of paper money. We also burned incense.

05-21-2012, 04:32 AM
Thanks for your input, guys. I can use as much info as you can provide. I understand the customs are different from kids to adults, relatives to friends, etc.

Bing Z
05-21-2012, 07:39 AM
While white has been traditional color for family members' funeral dresses, if your setting is in the USA, loosen it. I'd been to two funerals in Chinese funeral homes in NYC and Philly. None of the family members wore white, not to mention mourners. Everyone wore black or dark color clothes.

The 1st/3rd sevens are typically held at places of worship or homes, not at funeral homes. If your setting is in big cities, google these temples and check their pics. If it's a smaller city/town, forget it. Use a home. Actually, I won't expect them to stick to the strict traditions unless they're very important figures like Soong May-ling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soong_May-ling). Neither of the families of the funerals (deceased were both elders) I'd been to had held these events.

The traditional white cloaks immediate families wear during funerals will be burnt afterward but I'm not sure when (either right after funeral or 1st seven, never 3rd.)

05-21-2012, 02:29 PM
Generally what I've seen is that you can light some incense in front of their funeral photo, give a quick bow, have a moment and you're done. Unless it's a super-formal family.

05-21-2012, 06:55 PM
It's going to really depend on the family.
My Chinese-Canadian mother had a completely Western funeral....and I am not aware of any of these traditions. My grandparents did not press for anything like that. Never heard of "third seven"....

It is true that white is associated with death, yes. When my aunt wanted white flowers on the centerpieces at her wedding, my grandma flipped out. But no one wore white at my mom's funeral.

So whether or not they observe any of these customs is really going to depend on the family. Also, what about their religion? Some Chinese people where I live are very Christian...

05-21-2012, 07:32 PM
Thanks everybody.

All religions are represented in China, but I'm thinking Taoism traditions.

The scene takes place 3 weeks after the funeral. I guess it won't be anything formal, just an evening at home with a few family members and friends. My understanding was that sackcloth to be worn and no silk. Funeral rites to be performed on each seventh day.

My diseased is a young guy who committed suicide. The parents are performing the rituals, and I would love to stick to traditions.