Monday, April 21, 2008

No Weddings and a Funeral

While I did think that it would be cool to be invited for a wedding while I was Vietnam, I never thought I’d be attending a funeral. Unfortunately, my mother called me on Saturday morning to let me know that my uncle who lived in Saigon just passed away. I had met him for the first and only time a couple of months ago, at a dinner for his granddaughter’s birthday party.

I did not know my uncle very well but from my understanding he was a very generous and caring family man.

Feb 26. People enjoying some drinks after my cousin's daughter's party; my uncle’s sitting on the left.

Prayers started with female monks chanting with a plaintive wail. Its cadence had a soothing effect. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Buddhism and so not much about funeral traditions either.

I don’t know if this means anything in Buddhism, but while prayers were going on, some cows passed by (you can notice the bus in the background, ready to carry mourners to the crematorium).

I’ll have to research this more, but there was a group of men in uniform, slightly reminiscent of the sailor guy from The Village People. They prayed and did a quasi mini-choreography.

They also were the ones who carried the casket. Initially, I was wondering if my uncle had been in the navy. My current impression is that it’s just a tradition and those men are for hire.

I realized I have seen this decorative vehicle once before and wondered then what it was. Now I know. While we drove to the crematorium, fake money was being thrown out the window. Traffic in Vietnam rarely stops but it actually stopped when we passed by.

Male monks (at the front) led the prayers at the crematorium. They had percussion instruments, again giving a rhythm to the prayers. They were all much younger than the female monks.

1 comment:

htran said...

You are right, the men in uniform are hired hands to carry the casket. When I was in VN 25 years ago, you can also see hired band playing festive music at a Chinese family funeral ( quite a scene !)
My condolensces to you and you family.