Madam Teo Yap Tee contributed photographs depicting a funeral procession in a village in 1968, and describes the following details.
My husband’s uncle was barely 10 years old when his great-grandmother passed away in 1968. Although she was 92 years old then, a deceased woman is granted three more years to her age, according to tradition. Therefore her death age was declared as 95 instead.
The great-grandmother was the oldest elder in the Jalan Kayu village. She lived through five generations. For the wake, my husband and his siblings were dressed in green “xiao fu” (孝服), which literally means “filial clothes”, with pink overlays. The youngest member was just four years old then.
The wake lasted for 7 days – only odd number of days, and the duration of wake is dependent on the seniority of the deceased. The funeral procession was done in Hokkien-Taoist tradition. Besides serving dinners, my husband remembered that they had to order a truckload of “Green Spot”, a brand of soft drinks, to be given out to people who showed up to pay their respects. Thus, you can imagine the crowds who turned up.
On the final day of the funeral, the family and close relatives walked some 2 kilometres through the village, to send the great-grandmother off for the last time before the burial. Coffins, at that time, were made from solid wood and it was very heavy to have to carry it and walk for a distance.
As you can see from the photos, stilt-walkers were invited to perform for the procession.
As the deceased had lived to a respectable age and has had a long and enjoyable life, the funeral was considered a “xiao sang” (笑丧), a term which combines the word “smiling/laughing” and “mourning” to describe a “smiling funeral”. A “xiao sang” is a term used mainly in comforting the bereaved, rather than being put into practice, although no one was allowed to cry at the funeral.
It was the grandest funeral that my husband’s families had gone through.
Interviewee Teo Yap Tee
Written by Gracie Teo
Edited by Tan Wei Keong