Cemetery Etiquette

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).

HH: When we go to the cemetery to visit our dead relatives. You, you can… well I feel like this is American too. You can never step on the tombstone of another person. And I did that once and my dad…

ZM: Uh oh.

HH: No, no I didn’t stepped on her tombstone, my hat flew on her tombstone and my dad threw away my hat and he made me apologize to the dead person.

ZM: Just your hat?

HH: Yeah. And he literally threw it away. Like, you touched dead, you touched someone’s… like a dead person’s tombstone.

ZM: But like, if it was like your relative that you’re visiting and you like touched it like in an endearing way…Is it still bad to touch the tombstone?

HH: I don’t think so… No, like if it’s an endearing way then not. Like it was just like me, like it was a stranger like…It was me sort of like disrespecting the dead and I literally had to… He literally had to um make me apologize to her like… He was saying like, “She’s just a little kiiiid. Don’t haunt us.” Like that kind of thing. Like, when you go to cemetery you don’t want the dead to follow you back.


Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.


Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.


Analysis: I thought this practice was kind of extreme. I understand not wanting to disrespect the dead by stepping on their graves, but just a hat hitting the tombstone doesn’t seem like enough to cause harm in my opinion.