Grave Ceremonies

Family group sitting eating beside grave. Family and work colleagues having a meal with the less corporeal inhabitants at the family tomb. Having done the work of tidying up, food and drink are taken, allowing the dead
to feel included if they so wish
Aspects of western culture diverge considerably from those of Vietnam. In the west we may be satisfied with simple census questions about religious persuasions, expecting a useful description to emerge. In Thanh Hoá Province, south of Hà Nội, such matters are far less exact. The last page noted that, not only is there a category of 'temple' virtually unknown in the west, but that the complexity is increased as temples may not be readily distinguishable from pagodas. Pagodas indicate Vietnamese Buddhism with its The dedication on the tomb Dedication from the grave shown in the picture above. interwoven with Buddhism it also forms an element in daily life, independent of any more general codes. The place of family tombs have in daily life illustrates this complexity of the cultural norms. More or less elaborate graves mark the first resting place of the deceased. Often the dead are moved after three years to be near where other, older, family members are interred; this is an occasion of great ceremony. Also tombs are upgraded as finances allow. Lower down the page is an example of such upgrading. The top key strand: the acknowledgement of the importance of past family. But that importance is not only of the page shows two local tombs of recent family members; both were in need of sprucing up. The family grave as it was finished in 2016. This is the new tomb as it was put in place in 2016... Family grave needing weeded. ...and four years later, in need of a haircut Weeding underway. The above video clip of the activity of clearing up - new plants are being watered into place and the path swept Area weeded and offerings in place. (Left) first the weeding and clearing, then (below) setting out food, drink and flowers for the dead, and (right) the revamped tomb with trees, flowers and offerings Arranging the offerings on the tomb. Family remembering ancestors. Then there are a few moments of quiet remembrance for family members, and so the occasion is concluded. However, for Vietnamese inclusivity is a core virtue and just outside the enclosed area incense is lit to honour... Lighting incense outside the tomb area for non-family members. ...the dead who are not family members, (or who might not be so welcome within the tomb!) line The above photographs showed the tomb for the line of the father's family. Below attention is being given to the other side of the family. Vietnamese has a set of words to distinguish the two sides of the family which are in daily use. English only has the rather specialised 'distaff' side to designate the mother's line, literally translated the Vietnamese calls the father's side the inside family, while the mother's is the outside family - no doubt due to the custom of the new wife joining the male household. Below the distaff/outside family tomb. line Arranging offerings on tomb. Again, after tiding-up, offerings are placed on the tomb... Offering for non-family outside the tomb area. ...and incense is burnt just outside the area The tomb with the offerings in place. Arrangeing incense beside the offereings. To the offerings, incense is added. And below, the paper versions of money and other necessities are burnt to take them speedily
to the same place as the deceased
Burning offereings of paper money. Above, the offerings for the 'outer' family in place - beer and soft drinks are included with fruit, flowers and paper
money. And below, the session is completed with
the burning of incense.
Incense being burnt at the tomb. line The last set of pictures were taken at the time of a ceremony for a previous ancestor; the longer the lineage, the wider the family net falls, and hence a larger gathering. On this occasion of a new tomb was being dedicated. line New tomb, people standing and a motorbike. Normal life underlies proceedings. At the new tomb a father takes photos of his family and motor bikes are in attendance. This atmosphere fosters the sense that the dead continue to be integrated with the living, choosing to join in as much, or as little, as they wish Closer view of last. Scarfs keep off the cold air - incongruously under crash helmets - and phones chivvy late arrivals Family queuing to pay their respects at the tomb. When all is ready, the families queue to impart their personal wishes; thoughts borne along on the offerings of incense Two teenage cousins on tomb wall playing cards. But younger members have more pressing matters in hand A passing ox-cart. Life around continues on its way beside the graves Families leaving the cemetry. Once the company has passed on its thoughts, they make towards the exit and the other aspect of the proceedings - celebration - but first a game... Men gathered round a game of Chinese chess. ...of Chinese chess at the hosting house, while the food is heated Meal on mat in foreground, meal on dias in background. Meals often start with tradition in place. Above the more senior men are eating on a dais... Group sittingon mats eating. ...but in Vietnam conviviality rules, so formality soon brakes down, and diners move to talk to whom they wish. Looking away from the house across the groups sitting eating. To sit down and eat together - all and every excuse from birth to death is welcome.
This is the living soul of Vietnam on display
Trailers... A very large and very new family altar. Moving from burial sites to house altars - the next page goes to the heart of the Vietnamese relationship to the deceased. Waves swirling over a rocky shore. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Objectless Sound'.
Or go to the contents Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section. of the Mosaic Section.
Saturday 5th June 2021 Murphy on duty to this site

Contents for this section - Picture Posting.       Home page for this site -       Return to the top