|Paper folded into sycee to be burned as an offering|
It wasn't just Ching Ming, though. There were the burials themselves. We used to visit L.A.'s Chinatown on Saturdays quite frequently. I remember watching numerous funeral processions roll down the street. The coffin of the deceased would ride in a fancy black hearse with a large photograph of himself mounted at the front. Then, on loudspeaker, they would announce the name of the person who died. There would follow a line of cars escorted by police. When my great grandmother died, limousines were hired for our family. I remember going shopping for my black outfit which I was told should not be too nice since it was to be burned afterward. The thought of burning my clothes really bothered me. They said it was bad luck to ever wear that outfit again. In fact, anything worn to a burial must be burned.
Then there were the superstitions. Color was a big one. For instance, we were never allowed to wear only black or only white as both signified a death in the family and was bad luck. My mother used to do the Chinese equivalent of crossing herself. She would say, "Dai gut lay see" which translates into "Big tangerine lucky money." It was impossible. Almost everything we asked or said would prompt my mother to mutter about big tangerines. When my uncle listened to the song "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, my maternal grandmother pounded on his door to get him to stop playing the death song. The word for death in Chinese is "say." Which also happens to be the word for the number four in Chinese. And that is why Chinese people avoid fours. Fours are bad. Four is death. Everything is death.
|Hell Bank Note|