Just like Buddhist funerals, Taoist funerals are largely practised by Chinese families in Singapore. In Chinese culture, traditions will vary depending on the deceased’s role in the family, their age, and their position in society.
Taoists take these traditions relatively seriously, which is why you must take note of some funeral do’s and don’ts, in case you have to attend a Taoist funeral eventually. This quick guide focuses on things you shouldn’t do during a Taoist funeral.
Avoid wearing red at all costs
In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolises happiness, which is generally reserved for celebratory occasions like birthdays and weddings. This is the reason why the colour red is considered taboo in Chinese funerals.
Instead of bright and joyful colours, guests are expected to wear appropriate attire in muted colours like dark blue or black.
In some cases where the deceased lived up to 80 years old or older, families may allow guests to wear clothing with splashes of pink. In this context, pink is considered as a celebration of one’s long life.
It’s best to double check with the deceased’s family first before wearing anything with hints of pink. Otherwise, the general rule of thumb is to go for muted colours, especially black.
Don’t give bereavement money in even numbers
Giving of “pek kim” or bereavement money is customary in funerals in Singapore, not just among Taoists. It’s given to the family of the deceased to help with funeral expenses.
While there’s no strict minimum amount you can give, the family will appreciate receiving amounts in odd numbers. In Chinese culture, odd numbers are considered auspicious.
For the same reason, Chinese funerals are normally held in three, five, or seven days.
Under any circumstances, be sure to avoid giving an amount with the number four in it since this is considered an unlucky number. In Chinese, the number four sounds like the word for death, which is why it’s considered taboo.
Avoid leaving during prayers or chants
Just like any other religion, it’s considered offensive to leave in the middle of chanting or prayers. It’s exactly the same thing for Taoists.
In Taoist funeral customs, it’s normal for mourners (especially family members) to grieve as loudly as possible. While guests aren’t expected to do the same, it’s important to be courteous throughout the process.
That means sitting silently and refraining from using your phone during these rites. Be sure to wait until the chanting rites are over before leaving the wake.
Don’t bow thrice to family members
Bowing is generally considered to be a sign of respect in Chinese culture. While you can make a small bow to family members as a greeting, be sure to only do it once.
That’s because bowing thrice is traditionally reserved for paying respects to the deceased. Doing so in front of a living person is taken as a sign of disrespect.