Ashes to ashes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 November, 2009, 12:00am

On the day of a funeral, as specified by a fung shui master, relatives and friends gather in front of an altar set up in front of the coffin to pay their last respects. Food offerings are made and paper money burnt so that the deceased will have some cash in the next world. Paper imitations of possessions such as watches and houses can also be burnt and offered to the deceased. The timing of the funeral procession is vital, as the coffin needs to arrive at the cemetery for burial at a specified auspicious hour.

The funeral procession is led by a pair of large white lanterns on poles that bear the surname and age of the deceased. Behind the lanterns should be a portable altar containing the ancestral tablet and a photograph of the deceased, carried by the children or grandchildren. The main funeral procession might have a brass band or musical troupe preceding the coffin and the family.

At the cemetery, incense, joss paper and food offerings are made to the god in charge of the deceased. Following this ceremony, the coffin is lowered into the grave and family members throw lumps of earth on top of it.

The ancestral tablet is taken home and the family returns three days later to ensure the interment has taken place without incident.