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Taoism is a philosophical and religious belief that has been around for well over 2,000 years. In Singapore, Taoist funerals are often the most elaborate of all funeral ceremonies. There are more prayer rituals involved, and practices can also vary among the dialect groups. For non-believers, these can sometimes be hard to follow. So, we’ve gathered five commonly asked questions about Taoist funerals to guide you along.
#1. What are the key rituals and customs observed in a Taoist funeral?
Even though rituals and customs may differ from dialect to dialect, certain things are observed across all Taoist funerals. For example, encoffinment is generally not done after sunset because nighttime is considered to be yin (阴) in nature. Since yin is associated with darkness and passivity, Taoists believe that it will bring about bad luck for the descendants of the deceased if the encoffining ceremony was conducted after dark.
Another ritual seen in Taoist funerals is the chanting by Taoist priests on the night before the day of send-off. These chants are usually recited in the deceased’s dialect. Taoists believe that when people pass away, their souls will be reincarnated within 49 days. During this time, they will be judged on their conduct throughout their lifetime. The chants and prayers are performed in hopes of helping the deceased receive a favourable judgement from the deities in the underworld.
Particularly for Teochew Taoists, the prayer night will involve a bridge-crossing ritual. This bridge is none other than the nai he qiao (奈何桥) or the Bridge of Helplessness in English, which Taoists believe every soul must cross before being reincarnated.
#2. Can non-Taoists attend a Taoist funeral?
As long as you’re able to and comfortable with it, there’s certainly no restrictions on who can or cannot attend a Taoist funeral. Christians and Roman Catholics who attend a Taoist funeral, for instance, may choose not to offer joss sticks to the deceased.
Christians and Roman Catholics can still pay their respects at a Taoist funeral without offering joss sticks.
#3. How long does a typical Taoist wake last?
The duration of a wake is actually not dependent on the deceased’s faith, but the family’s budget and the number of guests who are expected to turn out, including whether or not there will be guests flying in from overseas. However, wakes in Singapore typically last between three and seven days.
#4. What should I wear to a Taoist funeral?
The same with all other Chinese funerals, modest clothing in neutral colours such as white, black, grey or blue are the safest choices. Whatever you wear, do avoid bright colours especially red, as red is a celebratory colour in the Chinese culture and wearing it to a funeral runs the risk of offending the grieving family. There’s an exception to this though. If the deceased is 100 years old or above, some families may want to wear red to symbolise that their loved one had lived a long and good life.
#5. Are there any specific taboos or practices to be aware of during a Taoist funeral?
There aren’t any specific taboos pertaining to Taoist funerals per se, but there are some universal rules to take note of when attending any funeral. For instance, being respectful in your words and actions is a must. You can touch the casket but do so gently. The Chinese also commonly believe that shedding tears on the casket will make it difficult for the deceased to depart in peace. As such, you may want to prevent any tears from falling onto the casket.
Did this list of Taoist funeral FAQs answer your curiosity? Are there any other things regarding Taoist funerals that pique your interest? Let us know through our Instagram @directfuneralservices today!