The way a funeral is organized in Vietnam is strongly influenced by Chinese ones with various rites and activities. Most funerals in Vietnam consist of three stages.
The first stage is called “Nhap Quan” (Entering the Coffin). The purpose of this stage is to clean the death body and place it inside the coffin. The death body is cleaned with alcohol or water, removed from the old clothes and worn in the death clothes. The clothes are made from white fabric, and not only the death body but also the husband/wife, the son and daughter and the grand sons have to wear this funeral clothes.
Afterwards, the corpse is placed inside the coffin and the relatives begin the rite under the leadership of a shaman. All families and relatives will then go slowly around the coffin, in line, to pay respect and to see their deceased family member for the last time. In addition, there is a bowl of rice and an egg place on top of the coffin if the family is Buddhist or non-religion, and a card of the death’s Christian name if he or she is Christian.
The second stage of the funeral is when guests – often the friends and further relatives of the deceased – come to share the sorrow with the family. The coffin is placed at home or at the funeral houses based on the desire of the dead’s family. Distant relatives, neighborhood, friends or colleagues of the death can come to the place, pray for the salvation of the death’s soul, go around the coffin to see the death again and console the death’s family. This stage might take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day, depending on the number of the visitors. Visitors who attend a funeral usually wear dark color clothes and bring sympathy flower, sometimes attached with an envelop containing money to help the unfortunate family cover the cost of the funeral.
When the visiting stage ends, the representative of the family will have a short speech to thank all the visitors and invite them to go with the family to take the death to the cemetery. The coffin of the death is moved to a special funeral car and taken to the interring place, followed by the family members and some of the visitors.
In some rural parts of Vietnam, especially with peasants’ families, the coffin is placed in the middle of the rice field and the dead’s eldest son has to walk backward, or even rolling on the muddy ground, to show his regret of his parent’s death.
There are two mains type of interring in Vietnam: burying and burning. The mourning time after the funeral is different based on the position of the death in the family, but mostly from 3 months to 3 years. During the mourning time, the family members have to wear a small black piece of cloth on the arm or chest.
Family Relationships in Vietnam