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6 Important Facts about Taoist Funeral Services in Singapore

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Traditional Taoist Funeral Services and Customs in Singapore

Death has been a topic of interest for all cultures throughout the world ever since the dawn of consciousness. Though we may never be able to prove whether the spirit survives death, there are, nevertheless, many cultures that have their unique funeral rites to appease the spirit of the dead.

In Singapore, our multi-regional environment has nurtured us to adapt and respect the different races, religion and their practices. The Taoist funeral service is one such event that is quite elaborate and greatly differs from other cultures. The Taoist rituals and customs involved are believed to assuage the malevolent spirits to protect the spirit of the departed. Therefore, the Taoist funeral ceremony is different from other rituals and traditions. In Taoism, death is a normal part of a person’s endless existence. Taoist funerals involve a complete detail for every ritual. Also, every procedure in this ceremony has a specific meaning. Let us take a look at some of these unique rituals of Taoist funeral tradition, and also a closer look at the Taoist beliefs to understand how their funeral ceremony differs from other Funeral Services in Singapore.


1. Taoist Coffin and Altar

Though the coffin is of the same triangular shape as any other coffin, the Taoist funeral coffin differs from others in that there are three bumps on top of it. Taoist casket has beautiful lotus engravings and flowers on it. It comes in 4-sided or 8-sided. Once the body is placed inside the coffin, it is also to be covered with papers. The eldest son closes the coffin and nobody else can see it. In Singapore, traditional Taoist rituals will be performed to place the body into the coffin in a religious manner. It is often led by the funeral director or the priest in charge of the ceremony. 

In the sacred Taoist funeral ceremony, the family set up an altar with a holy lamp that symbolizes the light of wisdom and two large candles that symbolize sunlight and moonlight. There is also a cup of tea to symbolize yin, rice to symbolize yang, and water to symbolize the union of Yin and Yang union. Lastly, the holy setup also includes five fruits that symbolize the five elements including wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.


2. The Garb of the Taoist Deceased

In Singapore, Taoists Chinese also believe in dressing the departed in their best clothing. A sombre brown or light shade of black or white is prescribed generally. Mourners wear either sackcloth or white cotton shirts and often cry loudly during the funeral ceremony. Red, however, is strictly forbidden since they believe that it may encourage the soul of the departed to return to earth as a ghost.

Since Taoism and Buddhism are closely related, a Taoist funeral in Singapore somewhat resembles the Buddhist funeral services. The main difference is that a priest often leads the Taoist ceremony while a monk leads a Buddhist wake. However, in terms of funeral etiquette and attire, both are similar in practice and follows the same customs.


3. Mourners

In Singapore, mourners are an important part of the ceremony. They wail loudly during the Taoist funeral procession and they are generally clothed in loose dresses or white shirts. Their wailing reaches a crescendo at the point when the coffin of the deceased is being closed. 

The wailing of the mourners is a display of love to the dearly departed.
Families are allowed to hire actors as well for the funeral procession since it keeps the family from being disgraced. Their plain clothes represent their reverence to the soul of the departed. They even participate in other rites with the priest. Besides hiring actors, Taoists can get services that prepare the families for such events and plan funerals.


4. Taoist Funeral Service

The funeral room has no mirrors as it is believed that death will come to whoever looks into them. Mourners cover their heads with headbands or hoods. The priest chants Taoist scriptures and is accompanied by the music of percussion and wind instrument. Around the space of nine tiles, the priest kindles a fire to keep malignant spirits at bay while another priest prays perched upon a lotus seat that is next to the photo of the dead for the forgiveness of the sins of all departed souls.

At a Taoist funeral, flowers and photos of the deceased surround the area. The main priest chants scriptures and others play the drums, symbols, and woodwind instruments. After that, the priest lights a circle of fire to ward off evil spirits. Another priest chant prayer on a lotus flower-shaped seat that symbolizes the Chinese goddess of mercy.
The burning of paper in the shape of houses, garments, and servants is also a crucial part of the Taoist funeral ceremony. Paper cars, servants, and garbs are burnt in the ceremony as well. The clothes of the dead are made to represent the living world while the paper houses and servants assist the soul’s journey through the netherworld. All those involved in the service are given some money and sweets as a sign of gratitude. 


5. Cortege

The cortege is also known as a funeral procession, takes place while the departed is taken to the burial or cremation site. In Singapore, the family of the departed remains just behind the hearse and is followed by the mourners according to their social status, which is quite a curious aspect of the procession. Sometimes a live band is hired to play solemn funeral songs.


6. Post Ceremony Rituals

In Singapore, as soon as the body is buried, the clothes of the dead worn during the funeral service are burnt. Additionally, everyone else is expected to do the same with their funeral clothes. A feast is held to express gratitude to the mourners and a seat is kept empty to welcome the soul of the departed to join them. The mourning period continues for the next 49 days with weekly prayers. No heir of the dead is to cut their hair during this period. 

Otherwise, if the body is cremated instead of buried, the cremated remains; bones and ashes are usually contained in a funeral urn. An urn is a vase-like container to store the bone remains of a cremated body. Often, urns that are filled, will be stored in any columbarium in Singapore.

So, these are the six amazing facts about Taoist funerals. This article teaches you something new about Taoist funerals that focus on warding off evil entities so that the deceased can attain a peaceful afterlife.