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Funeral Customs

Baofengba in Yunnan Province is a village inhabited by the Hans. At the village, I witnessed the funeral of an elderly woman named Yin Caiyun.

The main room served as the mourning hall. Red candles were placed in front of the casket which was flanked by pine branches and red and green paper balls and flowers. After relatives and friends bowed to the deceased, lit the incense and candles, they presented the family with glutinous rice cakes, candies and wine. Then they took turns standing by the casket. When the family started to cry for the loss of a family member, eight men and women with drums on their waists, led by a man with a wooden dragon head in his hand, started to dance to the beat of the drums in vigorous steps. When the music stopped, the dancers started to walk slowly, singing a mourning song.

According to the Han custom, a mourning ceremony includes paying respects to the deceased, gift-giving and a banquet given by the family of the deceased to express their thanks to friends and relatives. Villagers from Baofengba adopted the Yi's way of mourning because they thought getting the whole village together to dance and sing at the ceremony was a good way to show their respect for the dead and consolation to the family.

When I left the village I could still hear the loud mourning song: It is very hard to find a thousand-year-old person in the world. It is also not easy to find a hundred -year-old person in the world. I was told that the guests attending the mourning ceremony would take turns to sing and dance all through the night. When the funeral procession was held on the following morning, the family members of the deceased would walk in front, holding the mourning streamer. The younger generation in the family were required to kneel down, letting the casket pass overhead. On the way, people would stop after walking every hundred meters to sing and dance around the casket until it was buried in the mountain.

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