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Do’s and Don’ts When Attending a Chinese Funeral

Did you know that Chinese funerals often incorporate a mix of religious and cultural traditions, influenced by various belief systems? This includes Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and local folk religions. While the specific practices can vary depending on regional customs and the preferences of the family involved, the general rituals remain consistent across both Taoist funerals and Buddhist funerals in Singapore. In this article, we’re here to share the do’s and don’ts of Chinese funeral etiquette, allowing you to pay respects and express your condolences in a sensitive and socially appropriate manner.  

The Do’s of Chinese Funerals

Dress Appropriately 

Chinese Funeral Attire in Singapore

Source: South China Morning Post

The attire for Buddhist funeral services and Taoist funeral services in Singapore typically reflects somberness, modesty and respect for the solemn occasion. Both men and women are expected to dress conservatively in muted tones. Most guests will usually attend wearing loose white T-shirts and black pants. Avoid overly bright or flashy clothing and anything that may be considered too revealing. Accessories and jewellery should be kept minimal and understated. By adhering to the proper attire for Chinese funerals, mourners demonstrate their reverence for the departed and their family, acknowledging the gravity of the situation.   

Offer Condolences

Offering condolences is a gesture of sympathy for the bereaved family, but what does this protocol entail? Attendees will usually approach the family members or close relatives of the deceased and express heartfelt words of comfort. Always maintain a respectful demeanour and speak softly, conveying sincerity and empathy. Common phrases include “请节哀顺变” (qǐng jié’āi shùnbiàn), which means “Please accept my condolences,” or “愿逝者安息” (yuàn shìzhě ānxí), meaning “May the departed rest in peace.” Alternatively, the grieving family may also appreciate practical assistance such as helping with funeral catering and arrangements or providing emotional support.

Bring Offerings

At a Taoist or Buddhist funeral service in Singapore, offerings are presented to honour the departed and deliver comfort to their spirits. Bringing offerings in the form of food, fruits, flowers, incense and hell notes, and burning them ensures the deceased’s well-being in the afterlife. Beyond a sign of respect for the dead, offerings also show support for loved ones who are in mourning. 

Learn more: What To Know About Sending Funeral Flowers For A Buddhist Funeral

Follow Customs

Burning of Incense

In addition to the practices mentioned above, Chinese funerals involve several other customs deeply ingrained in tradition. These may include lighting the incense, bowing or kneeling before the departed’s casket and participating in prayer or scripture recitations led by religious leaders. Following cultural customs at Chinese funerals requires sensitivity and careful observance. By following the guidance of the family or designated leaders, attendees can respectfully express their love and remembrance of the departed.

The Don’ts of Chinese Funerals 

Displaying Inappropriate Behaviour

Loud and disruptive actions, improper attire or displaying any form of contempt towards the funeral customs and rituals are some examples of inappropriate behaviour at a Buddhist or Taoist funeral in Singapore. Such behaviour exhibits a lack of respect and interrupts the solemnity of the occasion. Avoiding conduct that draws attention away from honouring the departed and supporting the grieving family is crucial. Instead, guests should uphold courtesy and politeness, abide by cultural practices and show consideration to the emotions of those around them. 

Touching the Offerings

Offerings at a Chinese Funeral

Funeral offerings are meticulously arranged to aid the departed in their journey to the afterlife. Therefore, accidentally adjusting them may hinder their spiritual voyage. Furthermore, touching these offerings with unclean hands or in a careless manner may be deemed disrespectful. Out of respect for the departed and the bereaved family, attendees are advised to refrain from handling the offerings and to observe them with reverence from an appropriate distance during funeral proceedings.  

Discussing Unrelated Topics

Taoist and Buddhist funerals centre around remembering and honouring the deceased. As such, frivolous exchanges like gossip and trends are deemed to be disdainful because they detract from the sombreness and purpose of the ceremony. Rather, it is advisable for guests to engage in conversations that are comforting and relevant to the funeral setting. This may involve sharing fond memories or anecdotes about the departed, expressing condolences and words of support for the family or discussing subjects related to Chinese funeral traditions. 

Funerals are solemn occasions, offering us an opportunity to honour both the departed and the grieving loved ones they leave behind. Demonstrating respectful behaviour at Chinese memorials allows us to pay tribute to those who have passed and offer support to the living in their time of sorrow.

Founded in 2010, Confidence Funeral Services aims to deliver nothing less than excellence and quality. With a range of funeral services including Taoist funeral packages and Buddhist funeral packages in Singapore, we ensure that all funerals are properly executed from start to end.

Contact us today for more information.




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