Taiwan Funeral Customs

by K-Dean

After the interment at the cemetery, the entire procession returns home, usually by another route, so that the ghost of the deceased will not follow them home.

In Taiwan the majority of the population are Buddhists, and believe hell, heaven and reincarnation. A person’s fate is determined by past lives. The better quality of life is determined by the amount of good deeds done during a lifetime.Through special prayers and offerings, the living can improve the after-world conditions of the deceased and their chances in the afterlife.

In Taiwanese tradition, when someone is on their death bed, they will not actually die at the hospital. The family will decide when it is the right time to leave and take their loved one off life support. They are put on oxygen and transported back home by and ambulance, and placed on their bed. When they pass away, the body will lay in bed for 10 hours while the family members chant to assist the soul in passing to a happy place.

After that the body is placed in a coffin like freezer in the house. A seven day mourning period follows to allow more time for the soul to pass. As part of the funeral customs, the homes are prepared and a tent is set up in the patio area for the visitors. Friends and family pay their respects by bringing small white envelops filled with money as a donation to the family.

After the funeral, the body is transported to the local crematorium and cremated. The ashes are placed in an urn and and given to the family. The ashes are taken to their internment site, which is quite often located on a hill or in a spot with a nice view of the sea. After the funeral the family will perform ritual chanting for one or two hours, once a week, for seven weeks, at a temple. The process is led by the head nun, in front of a temporary shrine with their favorite fruits, cookies, and desserts set out on a table. The purpose of these rituals is to guide them to the happy land, encourage them to follow the right path, and avoid distractions by evil spirits.

Overall the Taiwanese funerals are very colorful and elaborate, they often consist of weeks of ceremonies with brass bands, dancing girls and sometimes hired mourners. These people are paid to cry their hearts out for someone else’s deceased relative. This is very common in Taiwan, where people want many mourners at their funeral to make for a good show.

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