What to Say at Chinese Funeral

What to Say at a Chinese Funeral: Understanding Funeral Etiquette and Traditions

Funerals are a time of mourning and paying respects to the departed loved ones. In Chinese culture, funerals hold great significance and are deeply rooted in traditional customs and beliefs. Attending a Chinese funeral may be unfamiliar territory for those unfamiliar with Chinese culture, so it is essential to understand the appropriate etiquette and what to say to show your condolences and respect. In this article, we will explore what to say at a Chinese funeral and provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

1. What should I say to the family of the deceased?
When offering condolences to the family, it is customary to express your sympathy and share comforting words. Some appropriate phrases to say include “Please accept my deepest condolences,” “May the soul of the departed find peace,” or “Our hearts go out to you and your family during this difficult time.”

2. Are there specific greetings or phrases to use?
When greeting the family, you can use traditional Chinese phrases such as “bai bai” or “zhao mu” (both pronounced “jow moo”). These phrases mean “pay respects” and are a way to show your condolences and respect for the deceased.

3. Can I bring flowers to a Chinese funeral?
While flowers are a common gesture of sympathy in many cultures, they are generally not brought to Chinese funerals. In Chinese culture, white flowers are associated with mourning and are typically used in funerals. However, it is best to check with the family or follow the specific instructions provided the funeral organizers.

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4. Is it appropriate to wear specific colors?
In Chinese culture, white and black are traditional mourning colors and are often worn to funerals. It is also advisable to avoid wearing bright or festive colors. However, customs may vary depending on the region or the family’s preferences, so it is best to consult with the family or follow the instructions provided.

5. What should I avoid saying during a Chinese funeral?
When attending a Chinese funeral, it is essential to be mindful of your words and actions. Avoid discussing topics related to death, as it may be considered inauspicious. Additionally, it is best to refrain from discussing personal achievements or engaging in lighthearted conversations that may be seen as disrespectful in the solemn atmosphere.

6. Can I offer monetary condolences?
In Chinese culture, it is common to offer monetary condolences to the family of the deceased to assist with funeral expenses. This is typically done placing a red envelope (hongbao) containing money into a designated collection box. The amount of money given should be in even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with weddings and joyous occasions.

7. How long should I stay at the funeral?
The duration of your stay at a Chinese funeral may depend on the specific customs followed the family. It is advisable to stay for at least 30 minutes to show your respect. However, if you have prior commitments or other reasons to leave early, it is appropriate to express your condolences to the family before departing.


Q1. Can I send a condolence card instead of attending the funeral?
A1. While attending the funeral in person is considered a meaningful gesture, if you are unable to attend, it is appropriate to send a condolence card expressing your sympathy and support to the family.

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Q2. Should I bring a gift to the funeral?
A2. Generally, gifts are not expected at Chinese funerals. However, if you wish to offer a token of remembrance, a small, thoughtful gift such as a photo frame or a candle may be appropriate.

Q3. Can I take pictures or videos during the funeral?
A3. It is generally considered inappropriate to take pictures or videos during a funeral. Respect the solemnity of the occasion and refrain from capturing any visuals without explicit permission.

Q4. Should I bow or kneel in front of the deceased?
A4. Kneeling or bowing in front of the deceased is not a common practice in Chinese funerals. However, it is respectful to offer a bow or a nod towards the photo or casket as a sign of reverence.

Q5. Can I share memories or stories about the deceased?
A5. Sharing memories or stories about the departed loved one is a beautiful way to pay tribute during a Chinese funeral. It shows your connection to the deceased and offers comfort to the family.

Q6. Can I bring my children to a Chinese funeral?
A6. Bringing children to a Chinese funeral is generally acceptable. However, it is crucial to prepare them beforehand and explain the significance and solemnity of the occasion.

Q7. Should I expect a receiving line at the funeral?
A7. Chinese funerals may or may not have a receiving line. If there is one, it is customary to offer your condolences to the family members individually, starting with the closest relatives first.

Attending a Chinese funeral can be a deeply moving experience, and understanding the appropriate etiquette and what to say is crucial to show your respect and support to the family. By following these guidelines and being mindful of the customs, you can offer your condolences in a meaningful and culturally sensitive way.

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