Funeral Rites Across Different Cultures: Taoism

Taoism is a set of traditions and religions that instructs believers on how to exist in harmony with the universe.  Along with Confucianism, Taoism, is one of the two great indigenous religious and philosophical traditions of China, shaping Chinese life for more than 2,000 years.  Taoists prefer to understand the way of nature as whole, emphasizing harmony with the balanced order of the universe.

During a Taoist funeral, mourners are expected to mourn or cry as loudly or expressively as they can, becoming especially loud as the coffin is nailed shut.  However, mourners do not face the coffin as it is considered taboo to watch it being sealed.  Mourners must also turn away as the casket descends into the ground.

It is tradition for families to hold a feast for the guests who attended the funeral.  Chinese families will typically give the guests a red envelope filled with paper money for good luck.  After the funeral, relatives mourn for 49 days with prayers said every seven days (seven is seen as a lucky number in traditional Chinese culture).  Taoism proscribes the children and grandchildren of the deceased from cutting their hair during the 49-day mourning period.

In Taoism, life and death are merely two aspects of “the way,” or Tao, the basic, eternal principle of the universe.

Woodlawn continues to be a non-sectarian cemetery without a specific religious affiliation.