Chinese Funerals and its Customs

There are many customs that are incorporated into a Chinese funeral in Singapore. Some have religious or spiritual believes connected to it, while others come from more cultural roots. These practices are more commonly seen in Buddhist and Taoist funerals. If you have attended a Buddhist or Taoist funeral in Singapore, you have likely witnessed the bereaved family performing some of these customs at the wake. In this article we look at a few of the common Chinese customs that is done during a funeral wake or funeral ritual. 


Mourning Clothing

The traditional clothing for bereaved families were wearing clothing made of rough hemp and straw. This is a Chinese custom during funerals to signify their grief for losing their loved one. This practice has since been modernised to wearing plain white t-shirts and coloured pants, with the colour of the pants differing according to how each family member is related to the deceased. The use of these mourning clothing is not only for the bereaved family members, but also for visiting guests and relatives. The clothing can be easily differentiated from normal everyday-wear, which allows visitors to immediately identify who the bereaved family members are. This is especially useful when visitors are unable to find the person that they are looking for. They would be able to ask any family member wearing the mourning clothing about the whereabouts of their friend. These days there are families who opt to wear their own plain clothing instead of the standardised colours to reduce one-time use as well as a changing of mindset and perception around funerals. 


Filial Badges

These badges are the square, coloured badges that are pinned onto the sleeves of the bereaved family’s t-shirts. The colour, like the coloured pants of the mourning clothing, signifies the family member’s relation to the deceased. They are commonly split into the generations of the family tree(children, grandchildren, great grandchildren). Much like the mourning clothing, filial badges allows visitors to know, in more detail compared to the clothing, the family member’s relation to the deceased. These filial badges are commonly worn at Chinese funeral wakes, and are sometimes also requested for Christian or Catholic wakes. 


Red Banner(from Son in Laws)

During the funeral of an elderly, the Son-in-laws of the deceased would prepare a red banner that would act as an escort of the Chinese funeral procession in Singapore. This red banner would include mainly the name of the deceased as well as the names of the son-in-law’s of the deceased. The Chinese funeral custom would be that the banner would be at the front of the procession, leading the deceased and their family to its final resting grounds: either a crematorium or a burial site. Whilst most of the procession was on foot in ancient times, vehicles are the go-to transport for funerals in Singapore. The banner, instead of being carried by a flag bearer, would be tied securely onto a vehicle and driven at the frontmost of the procession. 


Funeral Music Band

Chinese funerals in Singapore has a long custom of employing live bands to accompany the funeral procession. The musicians are present to provide a more lively setting for the family members. Traditionally, the band consists mainly of percussion instruments and a few musical instruments, with the focus on being loud and the ability to project the sound further. The band would accompany the ritual that is being done and start playing at appropriate times. In the current landscape of Chinese customs and funerals in Singapore, there have been modernisations to this concept. Instead of having multiple percussion instruments, funeral live bands in Singapore are switching to instruments similar to a live music band found in bars. Commonly seen instruments are the bass guitar, keyboard, drumset with sound board and brass instruments, allowing for better sound and music quality for attendees of the funeral wake. 


There are many other Chinese funeral customs that are performed during a funeral wake or funeral procession. These are just some of the many practices that are done during a Chinese funeral in Singapore. You may ask our funeral directors about these customs and practices to better tailor the style of funeral that you would like to have for yourself or your loved ones.