Taoism is a Chinese religion that differs in many ways from other religions of the world. It also differs when it comes to their funeral processions. There are different dialects in Taoism, including Hainanese, Teochew, Hakka, etc., and that is why the Taoist funerals vary from dialect to dialect.
A Taoist funeral can be simple or elaborate according to the will of the deceased or the family. But, no matter how the procession happens, it always has a meaning behind it, and there are a few rites and rituals which everyone in Taoism follows.
5 Taoist Funeral Procession
In Singapore, a Taoist funeral procession includes the following rituals.
1. The Setting:
Like many funeral services, Taoists funerals are also held at the altar, where the picture of the deceased is placed near the casket. Candles and flowers are placed all around the altar to show respect and send prayers to the beloved. The procession also includes food which was once a favourite of the departed soul.
2. Calling Back the Soul:
Once someone in Taoism dies, their loved ones call onto their names in the hopes that they will come back to them. Then, they call out to the spirit so that it might come back to the body. But, since this doesn’t happen, the family then proceeds to the next ritual.
3. Cleansing of the Body and the Soul:
This ritual requires the washing of the body with water from mother earth. The elder son usually collects the water for washing. It represents that the deceased has left all their worldly belongings and attachments in this world and moved on to the next one. This act allows the deceased’s soul to start their journey to the next world with a clear conscience and Tabula Rasa.
4. Burning Paper near the Coffin:
This procession is a very common tradition in Taoist funerals. In this ritual, paper is burned near the coffin to ensure that the dead have everything in the afterlife that they used in this life. Paper money, pictures, and similar paper objects are burned to imitate worldly objects. In Taoism, people don’t let go of their loved ones without ensuring that they have everything they require in the hereafter.
5. Chanting the Scriptures and Sutras:
During the Taoist funeral service, the Taoist priest (a daoshi) leading the service will chant the sutras and scriptures for the departed soul. The purpose of chanting the verses is to ask for forgiveness and repent for the sins.
After chanting, the priest will circle the fire with nine tiles that represent the underworld levels. Then he would wield a dagger or sword to subjugate evil spirits by breaking those tiles and freeing the deceased from evil things. Finally, the daoshi will sit on a seat that is shaped like a lotus. The lotus motif symbolizes the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin.
These were some of the Taoist funeral procession rituals which most sects and dialects follow. But, there are also a few things that are specific to different sects. For example, some sects believe that they should not look at the coffin when it is being buried or not wear colours to the funeral as it is considered taboo.
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