Preparation or taboo?
The Chinese imperial dynasties and nobility of the past were known to pre-plan decades ahead; hence, the idea of pre-planning is not actually even new among eastern cultures. It was thought to be an auspicious and culturally respectable thing to do. In the past, the imperial elite went as far as constructing their tombs years ahead to safeguard political power and secure dynasties through spiritual beliefs.
Among the ordinary folk, the younger generation would gift their elders with coffins to wish them longevity and good fortune! The coffins would be kept at home as a reminder to appreciate life and one’s own mortality, as well as a symbol of filial piety. When the time came, these coffins would actually be put to use during funerals and interments. Though it may seem foreign to us today, such practices are actually still observed in some rural parts of China.
As life expectancy improved with modern medicine and healthcare, people became less accepting of the idea of pre-planning and began seeing it as more of a taboo and “tempting fate”. Such ideas are nothing more than superstitions at best and it doesn’t change the fact we will eventually expire.
Although less traditional or culturally significant in present times, pre-planning is done out of consideration and care for loved ones and is considered a prudent exercise rooted in logic and economic sensibilities. Thankfully with education and exposure, the negative perception associated with pre-planning is beginning to shift as more and more are beginning to see its importance.
“The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
Nirvana Center Kuala Lumpur built their unique columbarium that is touted to be unlike any other found in Malaysia – the Rhyme of Life, embodying American journalist and novelist Chuck Palahniuk’s quote above.
Every ritual at a funeral is a way to accept the fact that we have lost a loved one, and the loss of a loved one is an unavoidable life experience for everyone and it is also a process.
In some cultures, death is a taboo topic.
What’s more, to talk about death and money in the same conversation would raise suspicion of greed and distrust.
Malaysia is a multi-racial country, with the main ethnic groups being Malay, Chinese and Indian. For the ethnic Chinese, there are various religious funeral rites such as Buddhist, Taoist and Christian, and Islamic and Hindu rites for the other ethnic groups. Different ethnic groups and religions have different cultural practices, religious ideologies, beliefs and values, making Malaysia’s funeral culture appear diverse in many ways.
The ancestral tablet is also called “soul tablet”, “spirit tablet”, “soul seat” and others. In Buddhism, it is called “lotus dais” or “lotus seat”. It is generally used as a temporary seat for the soul of the departed to reside, and convenience for the family members, relatives and friends to pay their respects.
Shuukatsu / Translated by Colin Kuan The term “shuukatsu” has become a popular buzzword in recent years. What then is “shuukatsu”? Shuukatsu originated from Japan. According to the United Nation’s 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, the most important...
Information for Malaysians What to do when a loved one diesThe loss of a loved one is an inevitable life experience for everyone as we grow up, but we must always be brave enough to face and accept it. With birth comes death, and with growth comes decline. This...
The guardian deity of tombs - Hou Tu Whenever you visit a cemetery during Qing Ming, have you ever noticed a small stone tablet with the characters “后土 (Hou Tu)” inscribed on it nearby the tombs of your ancestors? Before paying respects to our ancestors, we will offer...
Pre-planning: Sparing your loved ones from being exploited Whether you are prepared for it or not, when a loved one passes away, the emotional toll that grief exerts can be so overwhelming it leaves very little room for other considerations. The last thing that any...
Nirvana Ming Palace: A realm of tranquility where culture meets artCovering an area about 30,000 square feet, Nirvana Ming Palace is located at Nirvana Memorial Park (Shah Alam). The overall architectural style of Ming Palace is inspired by the designs of palaces from...