March 21, 2010
Sibu Foochow Funeral Customs and Rites -2-
So many wreaths were received by my aunt's family that I wonder if some of the florists did run out of flowers! Business associates and associations would send wreaths to the bereaved family. The Sibu florists know how to arrange the flowers and use appropriate words and in different languages.
This is just one of the three lorries fully packed with wreaths - getting ready for the funeral on the next day.
The Lau Clan Social & Welfare Committee members (Lau Kiing Nang- standing) ready to receive the White Gold (Ba Kin) from relatives and friends.There is a table with ledger and cash box laid out near the front door to the Bruang Road Bungalow.
This is the ledger prepared by the Sarawak Lau Clan to record all monies received and for what purposes. Each dearly departed has this as a record to be kept by the family. If you would like to have a better look at this kind of ledger you can always call up the telephone number 084-338699. It is the normal thing to do for my eldest cousin James to "repay" the white gold by referring to this ledger. In the Foochow community white gold and other monetary gifts are reciprocated in exact sums unless the giver wishes to give more or less.
The recording of the white gold received is meticulously recorded by hand. The various columns signify various funeral gifts the mourning relatives bring to the funeral as a token of their condolences: Chieh Leh ; wan lian ;yuk;hwang lian(huge banners made up of two pieces of cloth down and one piece of cloth across on bamboo poles. Words of salutations praising the deceased are written on paper and pasted on the cloth. These will form part of the olden day funeral procession) etc. (I will have to ask Wong Meng Lei to give me the Chinese characters for these terms).
These are the colours for the bereaved family.
In the past when relatives presented their white gold they would be given a piece of red cloth and a piece of muslin (white )cloth - this was called the Eurn Bak (red white). This reciprocal act is considered a "blessing" and to dispel any ill luck. Today towels are given instead. As a niece of the deceased I received two towels (one for myself and one for my husband)after I presented my ba kin and witnessed my cousin Kiing Nang write down my Chinese name. The token sum is usually RM50. Closer relatives (siblings and cousins to the deceased) give more. Other associates also would give more depending on their social status and financial background which can go up to thousands.
Every car which attended the funeral and final send off was given a towel to be tied to the mirror. In a Non Christian funeral the bereaved family would give a black string or black band for the car and upon returning from the cemetery the car would receive a red string or red band.
This is the famous "Sons and Grandsons Flag" or Chii Song Gee...this will indicate how many children and grandchildren or great grandchildren the deceased had. It would be carried by a member of ( funeral) social and welfare committee of the Church (black tie and white uniform). They are also responsible in carrying the coffin to the hearse. Local Sibu Methodist Church does not allow the coffin to be placed at the front in the church. When people see this chii song gee they will immediately know that my Aunt Pearl is survived by a large number of children and descendants because of the various colours and number of little flags.
The Lau clan's social and welfare committee had done an excellent job in helping to organise my aunt's funeral. It would have been impossible for my cousins to take care of all these arrangements and at the same time receive and send off relatives and friends who came to pay their last respects.
Meals were catered for those who came to the house from the moment the death occured. So the family had to see to the food from Monday evening until Thursday evening - seven catered meals altogether. Some strangers even dropped by to have a look and show concern. None was ever turned away from the table. Lunch time was most popular with the working personnel as they took the opportunity of using their lunch hour to visit the family and be with the bereaved.
All these past days I understand that some of my cousins could not sleep much because of the pressure and grief especially those who have to look after my ailing and aging Uncle Lau Pang Kwong. The phones too never stopped ringing and someone had to answer them.
The moral support and voluntary help from clan is remarkably felt in occasions like this. That is why the Lau Clan and other clans have good membership in the last hundred years or so. Everything was well organised like clockwork.
The XinFu Yuan church was fully packed for the funeral service.
I did not attend the post funeral lunch or lou puong (old rice). My cousins booked 50 tables Sin Xi Lou near the bus terminal to thank all who came for my aunt Pearl's last journey.
It was a good funeral and I am sure she would be beaming in her usual style in heaven.
My apologies to those who find mistakes or unacceptable statements in this post. Do let me know and I can easily edit. My apologies again.