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This work is the first detailed Western study of contemporary funeral rituals in villages in north China. At a time of great social transformation in China, this work examines funeral rituals, encompassing the rites of transformation and the rites of disposal.


“[Shaoming’s] work is based solidly on fieldwork in an area and within a speech community that was already familiar to him. Thus there were none of the usual language barriers that confront Western anthropologists and folklorists . . . He has therefore been able to bring a keen ear to the fieldwork site, as well as a heightened capacity for understanding the nuances of villagers’ communications. The result is a treatment of funerals in North China that provides unprecedented detail on what the anthropologists refer to as the social aspects of death.” – Prof. David Holm, The University of Melbourne

“This study is an important contribution to the scholarship of the social aspects of death in rural China and will become essential reading for anthropologists, folklorists, social historians and all those with an interest in social change in contemporary China.” – Prof. Anne E. McLaren University of Melbourne

“. . . reveals a shift in the meaning and content of the funeral ritual which points to changing generational values and a new emphasis on the interests of the living at the expense of the interests of the dead. The author weaves the history of mourning and funeral rituals and local history in this area of China into his narrative and considers his findings in the light of other studies of death and death ritual in China. The result is a groundbreaking and challenging examination of the changing place of mourning and funeral ritual in a Chinese locale during a time of great change.” – Dr. Justin Tighe, The University of Melbourne

Table of Contents

Foreword Professor David Holm
1. Province and County
1.2 Shandong and Chinese culture
1.2.1 A part of the Central Plain
1.2.2 The cultural significance of Shandong: the influence of Confucianism and Daoism
1.3 The good will of local people towards the imperial courts
1.4 Shandong people
1.5 Constraints on western influence in Shandong
1.6 Eastern Shandong
1.7 Longkou
1.7.1 The significance of Longkou
1.7.2 A well-protected region
1.7.3 Climate
1.8 Conclusion
2. Shagou Village
2.1 The formation of Shagou village
2.2 Village economy
2.3 Living standard in the village
2.4 Village administration
2.5 Religion
2.5.1 Buddhism
2.5.2 Daoism
2.5.3 Christianity – Protestantism
2.5.4 Catholicism
2.6 Family ties
2.7 Conclusion
3. The Ritual Sequence of Funeral in Shagou
3.1 Preparing the funerary goods
3.2 Moving the dying person onto the Lingchuang
3.3 Lying in state
3.4 Appointing a funeral officiator
3.5 Encoffinment
3.6 The mourning tent
3.7 Departure of the funeral procession
3.8 Burial
3.9 Post-burial observances
3.10 Conclusions
4. The role of the Officiator in Funeral Ceremonies
4.1 Background
4.2 Administrative officials
4.3 The ‘Sensible person’
4.3.1 Familiarity with local funeral practice
4.3.2 Knowledge of the local social structure
4.3.3 Other factors
4.4 Administrative structure behind a funeral
4.5 The funeral officiator
4.6 The Chief organizer
4.7 Accountant
4.8 Tasks to be performed
4.9 Conclusion
5. Dressing the Dead and Dressing for the Dead
5.1 Canonical Sources
5.1.1 Grave-clothes
5.1.2 Mourning clothes
5.2 Preparation for Death
5.3 The Grave-clothes
5.3.1 A set of summer clothes
5.3.2 A set of winter clothes
5.3.3 Longevity shoes and longevity socks
5.3.4 A modern Chinese suit
5.4 How are these Preparations Carried Out
5.5 The Younger Generation’s Concerns
5.6 Dressing the Dead
5.7 Washing the Corpse
5.8 Mourning Clothes
5.8.1 Mourning clothes as remembered by elderly villagers in Shagou
5.8.2 The modern trade in grave-clothes and mourning clothes
5.9 Conclusions
6. Food and Food Offerings
6.1 Canonical Sources
6.2 Last Meal before Death
6.3 Food and food Offerings before the Funeral
6.4 Compensation for labour
6.5 Adding fresh soil to the grave
6.6 Mourning on the Seventh
6.7 Conclusion
7. Final Resting Places for Body and Spirit
7.1 Canonical Sources
7.2 Pre-burial
7.3 Encoffinment
7.4 Mourning
7.5 The Burial or Cremation
7.6 Choosing a gravesite
7.7 Post Funeral Ritual Observances
7.8 Arrangements in cases of an unusual death
7.8.1 Mourning for infants or children
7.8.2 Dying in a strange land
7.8.3 dying before ones Parents
7.9 Conclusions

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