Professional Mourning


After someone dies in China, you throw a large celebration in their honor, and during these events, people often hire a professional wailer to aid in mourning. These wailers stand vigil and scream and cry for hours following a burial. They wear all white as a sign of mourning and respect.


The last time the informant went to China when she was 9, she was walking the streets with her mother and sister in the province of Hunan when she encountered a large funeral celebration, complete with firecrackers, lights, and banners. However, at this celebration she encountered a professional wailer for the first time, dressed in all white and screaming loudly near a grave. Her mother told her that wailing is a way to honor the deceased in China, and the louder the cries, the more you honor their memory.  


Chinese culture is known to promote the restraint of emotion in public settings. This culture makes it difficult or taboo for individuals to publicly cry and mourn (Cheukie). However, at the same time, not doing so at a funeral would be disrespectful towards the dead, so as a result, the practice of professional mourning was born. This is both a way of honoring the dead while also preserving the honor of the self since it is not socially proper to cry in public, and many might have a difficult time doing so when the situation does call for it. For this reason, I believe professional wailing became popular in China as a way of showing respect and reverence for the dead while also upholding the norms of social propriety. The wailers manufacture emotion, allowing negative feelings to be expressed in a way that is more culturally acceptable.

Cheukie. “Emotional Suppression in Chinese Culture.” Medium, 9 Sept. 2019, Accessed 1 May 2023.