1. The colors used at a Chinese traditional funeral are mainly white, black and navy blue. White is used by the host family, while navy is used by uncles and other relatives. Mourners are attired in black or somber colors. Colorful or exaggerated makeup should be avoided. Somber colors include light beige and pale gray.
2. Outfits should be simple and decent. For a male, he can wear a black shirt or plain T-shirt with a pair of trousers. For a female, knee-length dresses and skirts are advised. It is not suitable to wear dresses or skirts that are too short or too long. Go for simple and elegant design. Do not go overboard, such as wearing something with lace ribbon, bold prints or puff sleeves. It is also improper to wear bright and shiny jewelry.
3. Do not wear outfits that contain flashy or metal materials. General fabrics are ideal.
4. Slippers and sandals are not advised neither fishnet stockings for a female.
5. If a female wears makeup, keep it pretty minimal or natural just to make the skin look even-toned and awake. Excessive makeup is not appropriate.
1. The meaning of condolence money or “Bak Gum”: in Chinese, “Bak Gum” literally means silk money. In the past, the poor people covered a dead body with straw mattress at a funeral. Relatives and friends were afraid that their loved one might be unbearably cold on the journey to the netherworld, so they collected condolence money to buy a sheet of silk cloth in order to warm the deceased’s body. As time goes by, the quality of living has been improved and general family can afford a decent funeral, but they still have to spend money on such ceremony, so relatives and friends are willing to exert their humble efforts in order to express their condolences.
2. The amount of money: the amount must be in odd numbers, for example $100 plus $1, that is $101. This is because guests attending a funeral will receive an envelope called “Gat Yee” which contains a one-dollar coin. If the amount is $100, after deducting one dollar, it will be $99, which in Chinese has a meaning of “for a long time” and sounds unpropitious at a funeral. Therefore, the amount has to be in odd numbers.
3. To ask someone else to send the money on behalf: if a guest cannot attend a funeral and would like to express condolences, he/she may bring the money to the bereaved before the funeral or ask a friend of the bereaved to send it on behalf, but do not send the money afterwards as this is very disrespectful.
4. If the host family is an employer or a superior, it is improper for an employee to give them money as if implying that the family is in need of money and this might make them lose face.
1. Guests can bring a white envelope with condolence money and/or send a flower wreath.
2. If the guest is an employee, it is more appropriate to send a flower wreath.
3. Flower wreath must be sent to the funeral hall on the date of the wake.
4. Salutation and complimentary close
(links in Chinese only)
5. Words of condolences
(links in Chinese only)
6. Enquiry about the use of flowers can be made to staff at a florist’s shop. In general, traditional Chinese funeral flowers are white.
Behavior at a Funeral
1. Do not be late when attending a funeral, taking part in a funeral procession to the cemetery or crematorium or giving final farewells to the deceased (in general, a certain time slot will be selected for the funeral procession or final farewells which cannot be delayed).
2. Guests should walk into the funeral hall quietly in a solemn and respectful manner.
3. Turn off cell phones or turn on silent mode when attending a funeral, taking part in a funeral procession to the cemetery or crematorium or giving final farewells to the deceased. If a call must be received, guests should leave the funeral hall quietly, or answer the call in a low voice outside and cut it short if possible.
4. When meeting some friends in the funeral hall, noisy chats, greetings and laughter should be avoided.
5. Guests should attend the whole ceremony in a mournful and solemn manner in memory of the deceased. Do not look around or keep looking at cell phones or watches.
Words to Say at a Funeral
1. Do not say “see you again” as nobody wants to see each other again in such occasion. It will be better to say “goodbye” or “bye”.
2. Do not say “thank you” when receiving the “Gat Yee” envelope. Just a nod is enough. “Thank you” is used on happy occasions to express gratitude, so it is improper to say so at a funeral.
3. To comfort the bereaved, you may say “I am sorry for your loss” or “take care”. Do not speak too much as it is a memorial time and the bereaved are grieving for the deceased, so it is best to keep solemn.