Passing Ashes After Cremation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American/Chinese/Japanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Description: After a family member is cremated, the family would pass the remains across the family chopstick to chopstick.

Background: The informant observed this in his family during funerals.

Transcript:

ML: Another thing I’ve noticed more is that we can’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick. Ao whenever we’re eating, and we share, she puts it on my plate. Because passing stuff from chopstick to chopstick is reserved for family remains after a cremation. I think my dad is the same way too. I think in Japan when someone dies, they’re cremated and their ashes and stuff are put into a urn and the family members pass the pieces to each other into the urn. Yeah, so then whenever I’m about to grab something out of her chopstick, my mom gives me a dirty look.

My thoughts:

This entry would be considered both a ritual tradition as well as a taboo. It is more accurate to say that it is a taboo that resulted from common practice. Rituals for the dead is not uncommon in any culture, but it is often in Asian traditions that I tend to find taboos that come from such traditions. One easy example would be the taboo of stabbing one’s chopsticks on a bowl of rice, as that is usually reserved for an offering for the dead. The association itself is plenty direct most of the time, as it’s easy to see why one would want to separate actions for the dead from ones of the living as the dead do not belong there and not many want to think about death when living their daily life. Another function of those specific rituals are also to provide some sort of closure for relatives, allowing people to finally move on after the passing of a loved one.

Annotations: 

The expression of the old East Asian funeral art: Author: Dae-Youl Kim – 

https://www-dbpia-co-kr.libproxy1.usc.edu/journal/publicationDetail?publicationId=PLCT00000694