Phase 3: Interpreting Information
So far, I have been gathering basic background information on my topic, beginning and end of life rituals, so that I will be well acquainted with my topic when I do my research. In phases 0, 1, 2 and 3 I have been deciding on my topic, posing questions and conducting research to discover background information on end and beginning of life rituals
Background Information (from Phase 1):
The Hui minority group primarily practices Muslim traditions, so at a Hui funeral the ceremony is a tradition Muslim burial. This also applies to birth. Immediately after the birth of a Hui infant, the child will be brought to a Muslim Ahung to recieve a Hui name. Ahung's also perform Muslim wedding and funeral traditions for the Hui people. When a Hui person dies, they must be promptly cleansed and then wrapped with a white cloth before being buried without a casket. At Hui religious services (including naming ceremonies and funerals) all attendees must either perform a "min or cleanse" where they splash water on their face, hands and feet or a "major cleanse" of the whole body. Additionally, crying at Hui funerals is frowned upon because it is considered to be a "complaint against the dead". (1)
One thing that I have found in common with almost all of the sources that I have looked at so far is the mention of the modernization of funeral traditions in Asia. Whether it's through sea or sky burials, mourning over social media or cremation, Asias funeral tradtions are changing due to a lack of space for burial grounds as well as simply because the world is changing and leaving behind certain traditions. One example of this change is in Gaoan village nearly 6,000 caskets have been handed over to officials in order to promote cremation instead of burial rituals. The elders of the village are against this, however the younger populaton of the village has chosen to support eco-friendly funeral practices. (2)
From looking at Microcampus alumnis projects, I have learned many traditions associated with death in Xizhou. I have learned that in Bai culture you should not have a casket until you are at least 80 or already deceased. If the deceased person is over eighty, he or she should have a red casket because living until you are 80 years old is considered lucky. However, if the recipient is younger than eighty their casket should be black to symbolize their bad luck in dying young, no other colors are allowed in Bai culture. When mourning a deceased person, the family should put a "couplet" on the door. A couplet is two charcters or phrases that correspond in some way. When the deceased family member is over 80 the couplet should be written in white, but if they passed away before 80 the couplet should be in red ink. People mourning a family member will wear white because it is the color of death in China while friends and strangers should wear normal clothes when mourning. Family members will wear a 孝布 (white head wrap) to the funeral, because it symbolizes keeping the spirit of the deceased with you. If you are an extremely close friend of the deceased, you might wear a white flower pin, but you should not wear a 孝布。During the procession, you should first go to the town square and attract attention by weeping, setting off firecrackers and playing loud music to honor the deceased. Next you go to the big tree. On the way to the big tree you must pass over a bridge, however, it is believed that the deceased cannot cross bridges, so the sons of the deceased must all lay down and have the casket brought over them. When you arrive at the big tree, it is custom to walk around it three times and then burn items such as clothes and blankets as well as some of the deceased favorite things. If the deceased have drowned in Lake Erhai, their casket can be buried near the lake, however for most people the casket is buried at the burial grounds. (3)
The Bai people believe that the souls of the deceased lives on in the afterlife, so it was custom to create extravagent funerals, however, this tradtition has been lost. The Bai people believe that burying will bring peace. This is an example of a Buddhist belief that the Bai follow. The Bai have aspects of many religions in their culture while the Hui are mainly influenced by Islam. (4)
According to BBC, in muslim tradition, the first words that a new-born child should hear is the Muslim call to prayer also known as the adhaan. This should be whispered in the babys right ear by their father. Another tradition is to rub something sweet like a date on the childs gums as the first thing they taste because it is beleived that this will help their digestive system. Then, a week after the birth of the child, it is tradition to shave the babys head and donate the equivalent weight in silver to charity in order to show that the child is a servant of Allah. Additionally, on the seventh day after birth the baby should be named and a sheep should be slaughtered and the meat is to be shared among family and given to the poor. (5)
One Chinese tradition associated with childbirth is inviting family and friends over one month after the baby is born to recieve gifts. On this day, people used to light incense and and hang a bow on the left side of the door if the baby is a boy or a red scarf on the right if it is a girl. The parents should introduce the baby with all of the friends and share the meaning of the babys name with everyone. When the baby is one year old, there is a tradition called Zhua Zhou where a baby is placed in the middle of a circle of objects of similar sizes and colors. The baby should crawl towards one in order to determine their future occupation or interests. (6)
Information From 3-to-5's:
Information From Local Contacts:
Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):
1. “Hui People.” Hui People - New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Hui_people.
2. Kong, Lily. “No Place, New Places: Death and Its Rituals in Urban Asia.” JSTOR
3. Vincent C.'s inquiry project
4. Isabelle S.'s inquiry project
5. “Religions - Islam: Birth Rites.” BBC, BBC, 18 Aug. 2009, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/ritesrituals/birth.shtml.
6. “Tradition of China - Birth Celebration: ChinaFetching.” Chinese Culture, www.chinafetching.com/tradition-of-china-birth-celebrate.