Chinese funeral culture appeals to foreign audiences
Published: Dec 12, 2019 10:08 AM

An exquisite paper palace that is prepared for the deceased is on display at an exhibition in Paris. Photo: screenshot of video posted by Pear Video

Offerings made of paper including paper palaces, gods and vehicles that are prepared to burn for the dead have been on display at a museum in Paris, showing Chinese funeral culture to foreign audiences, who see the Chinese view of death as romantic.

The exhibition included an exquisite paper palace with a complicated structure. The exhibition planner said that a variety of paper gods are on the palace and stun visitors, according to a video posted by Pear Video on China's Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo.

The exhibition planner also introduced other paper artworks at the exhibition such as vehicles, saying that paper vehicles, which are prepared for the deceased, have special meanings as it is thought that they can take souls to heaven.  

Besides the paper palace and cars, the paper offerings include other luxury items, even private yachts, private airplanes and safeguards. They are all burned to make sure that ancestors can enjoy their carefree life in another world. 

In the video, the paper artworks are true to real items in life and are just scaled-down. "We focused on each detail of these artworks," the designer Han Xiaopi said in the video. 

"One of the most important concepts of this exhibition is to tell people not to forget their original intentions. You can tell us what you want to convey to your families and we can help you send your loved ones to heaven (through these offerings)," Han said. She thought burning offerings can transmit kindly feelings of the living to those who have passed away.

Chinese netizens are proud of the country's funeral culture. "The funeral art demonstrates how splendid China's folk handicrafts are," one netizen said on Sina Weibo.

This is not the first time Chinese funeral culture has intrigued foreigners. 

Many YouTube bloggers uploaded videos about imitating Chinese people by burning joss paper, also known as ancestor money or ghost money, for their dead families. They agreed that burned items can be sent to the deceased and let them spend a happier time in heaven.

Foreign netizens even established a support group to teach others how to prepare for the ritual before burning ancestor money.

A photo showing how to set up an ancestor altar circulating on Twitter shows that the netizen prepares perfume, candles and food offerings, as well as ancestor money before the ritual, which is similar to China's funeral traditions.

"Funeral rituals have always been viewed as an important part of Chinese social life. The importance of funeral rituals rests on certain basic beliefs held by the Chinese," an insider with the funeral industry based in North China's Shanxi Province told the Global Times on Wednesday.   

He said that death does not signify the end of a person's participation in the lives and activities of their family, but is as a process of transition. Chinese people believe there is a continued relationship between the living and the dead so they need a ritual to communicate with their ancestors regularly.