Professional Mourners in China

Jun 26, 2013 | 0 comments

belly dancer for NPR storyThere’s a great story on NPR today about professional mourners in China. Titled Belly Dancing for the Dead: A Day with China’s Top Mourner, this story illustrates the lengths (and expense) some families will go to honor their dead.

China’s funeral rituals were banned during the Cultural Revolution, and now they are back as funeral extravaganzas. Ancient traditions incorporated with modern entertainment equals a good goodbye.

The story focuses on a top professional mourner named Hu Xinglian, who is known professionally as Dingding, or Dragonfly. She took up the profession 10 years ago after losing her job as a department store clerk.

She says that some people, especially younger people, don’t know how to cry. She shows them how it’s done.

You may recall that the Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, featured in the TV series Best Funeral Ever, has professional mourners as part of the services they offer in their African-American home-going celebrations.

Among the details for this one funeral in the story:

  • The funeral troupe includes six actors and musicians.
  • There’s a large community meal before the funeral.
  • A large tent was set up in which to hold the funeral.
  • The ceremony included music over a sound system and flashing lights.
  • The ritual includes burning papers and bowing three times to the dead.
  • Yes, there is a belly dancer at the end, followed by hip-hop music.

Doesn’t this sound like many of the arrangements one would make for a wedding? Yes, funerals are the parties no one wants to plan. This story shows how a good funeral can help the family process their grief and move toward healing – and have a blast!

Read or hear the NPR story.

A Good Goodbye