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(899 words)

Author(s): Thompson, Stuart
Death rites have long been the most complex and expensive of Chinese life-cycle ceremonies. Chinese mortuary practices (funeral customs) have been traced back to the Neolithic and Early Bronze ages. The imperial Chinese state made it legally compulsory for those kin related to the deceased according to the wu fu (five grades of mourning attire) to mourn in a manner prescribed by Confucian orthodoxy; failure was punishable by severe corporal punishment or worse. The structure and sequence of funeral rites has displayed impressive uniformity bot…

Ancestor Worship

(958 words)

Author(s): Thompson, Stuart
Ancestor worship has been the lynchpin of Chinese "familism". It correlates with xiao (filial piety), the cardinal Chinese virtue, for ancestor worship minimally involves and invokes proper filial compliance to the needs of deceased parents. It expresses and is importantly constitutive of family and wider kin relationships, tending to confirm patriarchal lines of authority. It is premised on the culturally crucial idea that the living males of the family are merely links in a continuum of patrilineal descen…