CUSTOMS AND IDEAS
visiting among the Chinese one meets with customs that seem odd and
even very abhorrent to the Western mind. As I was passing along the
street on yesterday, I was accosted by an acquaintance and cordially
invited to enter. On going into the house the first sight that met
my astonished gaze was a large black coffin. It was placed in the centre
of a room through which the family and all visitors must constantly
pass, a room in which the family cooking is also done. Here this ghastly
object has stood for more than three months awaiting burial. The woman
I was visiting, who is a daughter-in-law of the deceased, rattled on,
laughing and talking in the liveliest way. She said the venerable lady
had died and that they did not have the money necessary to bury her.
Sometimes a family will expend more than a thousand dollars on a funeral.
A fortune-teller must be paid to select a lucky place for burial. Priests
are engaged to celebrate the funeral rites. A band of musicians is
hired who make night hideous with their din. Open house is kept for
days and there is much feasting and jollity. In the funeral procession
there is not a little barbaric pomp and show.
the sick are found to be dying the friends hasten to put on them their
best clothing in order that they may make a good appearance in the other
world. They dying must be removed from the kong (brick
bed) lest the spirit should enter it and remain. If, unfortunately,
death should take place before removal, the kong must be pulled down.
After death, paper money is burned that so the deceased may be able
to pay his way in the under world. Paper horses and carriages and servants
are also burned. It is desired that the dead shall keep up the same
state to which he has been accustomed in this world.
Chinese believe that each person has three souls. One is supposed to
enter the tablet which is kept at home to be worshipped; another is
said to go into the tomb, and to this offerings of food and money are
also made on set occasions; a third is supposed to go to a temple and
drink a beverage of forgetfulness, after which it transmigrates according
to the deeds done in the body. A wicked man will become an animal;
the very good man may hope to be a god. A good woman is allowed to
believe that she may become a man when her period of existence in this
world again rolls around.
in the August 1884 Foreign Mission Journal.