How to Dress for a Taoist Wake
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Taoist wake, it is a great honor. The host will take you through the entire process and make sure that you are comfortable.
For example, you will be given a white cotton robe and a long sleeved white shirt to wear. The idea is that you are now living in a world of white, and you will have to shed your black garments to symbolize your life being transformed. You will be given white cotton socks to wear on your feet.
You will be asked to remove all of your black clothing and to give it to the host. You will be given a pair of white slippers, and you are told that you must walk through the process barefoot.
The host will take you through the entire process so that you do not make any mistakes, such as getting dirt on the clothing or not putting on your slippers correctly.
If it is a Taoist wake for a woman, the men must wear something white as well, but it can be white pants or a long sleeved shirt with no collar.
The Process of the Taoist Wake
The body is then laid out in a coffin that has been specially built for this purpose. It is in an open casket so that everyone can see what has happened to their loved one.
The body is dressed in beautiful clothes made of silk or satin with an elaborate headdress made of gold and jewels, such as jade and pearls. This gives off an air of prosperity and wealth because Taoism teaches that when you die, your spirit lives on in another dimension where money does not exist.
The coffin is carried to the place where the wake will be held, and the Taoist priest or monk will lead a procession to the funeral home. The procession is made up of family members, close friends, and sometimes other people who want to be a part of the ceremony.
A small table with a large incense burner on it is placed at the front of the room. There are seven lit sticks of incense on top of the burner. Each stick represents one of the following:
A symbol for the universe. A symbol for Heaven and Earth. A symbol for an immortal being or god. A symbol for one’s ancestors. A symbol for the sun, moon, and stars. A symbol for time and space. A symbol for man’s fate or destiny in life.
The Taoist priest will also put out a set of joss sticks on a tray that represents one’s family members who have passed away in years past (usually 3-5). Joss sticks are just like incense but are used more commonly in Chinese culture as an offering to spirits or gods (and not as much as a cleansing agent). You can see pictures below to see what they look like:
Once everyone has arrived at the funeral home, they will begin to chant their prayers while walking around the coffin three times counterclockwise. They will also clap their hands three times to the beat of the chanting. They will then take their seats.
After everyone has taken their seats, the Taoist priest will begin to chant prayers and read from Taoist texts while beating a drum in a steady rhythm. This is done to get the deceased person’s spirit to return home and be reunited with his family members for one last time.
Afterwards, family members are given a chance to pay their respects and offer incense sticks or joss sticks to the deceased person. They must do this in silence so that they can communicate with their loved one’s spirit.
Once they have paid their respects, they leave the room, and the wake continues until midnight. The Taoist priest will then conduct another prayer ceremony at midnight so that he can send off the deceased person’s spirit into another dimension of existence (and hopefully, one that is more peaceful than this one).
Finally, everyone leaves after midnight so that they can go home and rest before returning for the burial ceremony at 9am on the following day. The only people who remain are close family members who are not able to make it back home before midnight.