Immediately after death
The “head” (the oldest or the person financially supportive) of the family has to make the important decision of the location where the funeral would be held. The location would be drawn between placing the deceased in a Taoist funeral parlour, within the house’s premises or at the multi-purpose hall/viod deck of a HDB flat.
After a location is finalized, the family then informs friends and relatives of the passing and wake details. The deceased is then brought to the mortuary to be embalmed and cleansed. He/she will be dressed in her best clothes paired with makeup after the embalming and will be placed in the coffin (The deceased will not have anything red on them).
A red or white banner would be hung above the main door of the house signifying a passing. Statues of gods and deities within the vicinity are covered with red paper – this is to block the deities’ view from the sight of death. Mirrors are removed as the superstition behind it is that anyone who sees the coffin in its reflection would bring about a death in his/her family.
The altar and the coffin
There would be wreaths surrounding the altar where a portrait photograph of the deceased are placed in front of the coffin. There will be a opening through glass encasement within the coffin, where one would be able to catch one final glimpse at the deceased. Joss sticks and candles are placed around the altar for family and guests to offer their prayers and respect. Instead of vegetarian food – like in Buddhism practices, it is observed that food of all sorts (favorites of the deceased) are placed upon the altar to act as an offering as well.
Family do not wear gold or silver jewellery or red clothing. In more traditional times, it is mandatory for blood relatives and family members to wail and sob during mourning – so as to show respect and loyalty to the deceased; the louder it is, the more respect they would be paying. However, the mourning process is increasingly toned down with modernization.
The family would have to wear white shirts and black/dark blue pants. A piece of colored cloth would be pinned onto their sleeves to signify the relation with the deceased.
Taoist priests would be conducting intervals of scripture chanting and the family, lined according to their order of hierarchy and age, would follow in suit with the chanting. The chanting allows the path of the souls to be smoothed out, removing obstacles and torture for the sins they might have committed in their lives.
Friends and guests visiting to the funeral are required to light incense or a joss stick at the altar as a sign of respect to the deceased and family. Joss sticks and incense money are to be burnt continuously throughout the wake as it helps provide the deceased with sufficient money to spend. And also, if the family is well-to-do, you will see big houses or cars made out of paper in which they will be burning and offering to, to their deceased one, so to ensure their well being in the afterlife.
A bereavement donation box would be placed in the premises as donations are appreciated as a sign of respect to the parties and would help in lessening the funeral costs.
The nights of the funeral would be spent in “vigil” in protecting the deceased body, where family members stay awake throughout the nights. You will see people gambling, as this helps to keep the guests and attendees in a lighter mood and awake.
Guests normally attend the first few days of the wake. After their initial paying of respects, guests are gathered around the tables filled with tidbits and drinks. Guests may proceed to give their bereavement donations (白金 – White Gold) to the family members. They should also give words of encouragement and blessings to the family of the deceased during this period of visitation.
Last day of wake
The lid of the viewing panel on the coffin will be closed, with it sealed shut. On the last day of the wake, the deceased will have a final send-off. This is called the “Last Journey”. The corpse would either be sent to the columbarium for cremation, or to be buried in designated burial grounds. Performed ritualistically with the Taoists monks’ chants and instructions, the hearse brings the coffin to the final grounds where concerned family, relatives and friends are to see the deceased to his/her last path towards paradise.
After-which, everyone attending may have to be sprinkled with “flower water”, so as to cleanse themselves after the send-off.