Monday, December 3, 2018

Etiquette and Chinese Ancestors

Animated ancestors in the Disney’s tale of a feisty, Chinese teen heroine, “Mulan.”

Ancestor worship still exists and as this is one of the teachings of Confucius. Shantung China, so near the grave of Confucius, is perhaps one of the places to see it at its best. Every Chinese household has within its doors an ancestral hall, a shrine in which are deposited the tablets of the deceased ancestors. 

Every clan has also an ancestral temple which forms a rallying point for its members who come to join in the ritual as new shrines are to be set up. These tablets are slips of wood about one foot high and three inches wide, placed upright on a pedestal, and having inscribed on each side the name, rank, date of birth and death. They remind one of a tombstone kept in a home instead of being placed at a grave.

After the consecration of the tablet, a dinner is spread for the dead. Then money and clothing are set out. These are left on the table for several days. The eldest son is compelled to go through an elaborate ceremony in carrying food and wine to the burial place for several days, and to say prayers before the tablet when he returns home. For this reason, the Chinese are anxious to have a son. 

If there is no son and no one to perform the ceremony, the ghost, hungry and ill-clothed, is destined to wander about the earth. They are especially particular in the observance of ceremony and have a set etiquette. For instance, the first thing one man does upon meeting another is, to ask what each member of the family is doing, his age, his full name, and if he is married, his wife’s name, and whether they have any sons (for it seems that girls do not count). After that they talk about anything they like. – Los Angeles Hearald, 1919

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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