A cultural sociological review of Chinese funeral rituals

Sin Yui, Sharon CHAN, Amy Y. M. CHOW

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Since the Industrial Revolution, and more so in the past century, society has seen rapid changes in the form of development in different directions, which have stimulated a considerable number of sociological studies on the importance of culture, leading John Hall et al. (2010) to claim that sociology itself is cultural. In reality, our understandings of history, social life, power, and race are very much linked to culture, and seeing culture as a social phenomenon has opened a new door for sociologists to contribute to the analysis of culture by adopting sociological thinking. Traditionally, sociological inquiry focused on the emergence of new cultures and the process and outcome of cultural transformation. Such inquiry has changed, as one major domain of contemporary sociological studies tends to dedicate its attention to how meaning making happens, why individuals perceive meanings differently, how meanings influence human action, and the crucial role of meaning making in social cohesion, domination, and resistance (Spillman, 2002). Such contemporary inquiry is based on an assumption that culture is shared by all those living in the same community. In other words, individuals in the same community establish and affirm their connection through standardized, repetitive, and routinized activities. These activities – namely rituals – bond individuals to society, and reinforce core social values (Jacob, 2010). The power of rituals in a specific occasion, such as a funeral, is manifested not only through the outcome of the ceremony but also throughout its planning, its process and its effect in alleviating grief. The current chapter will provide (i) a review of the theoretical underpinnings regarding rituals; (ii) a discussion of the significance of Chinese funeral rituals; and, (iii) an examination of the dynamics of the current social forces shaping the sacred funeral rituals, with a specific focus on Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of the sociology of death, grief, and bereavement: a guide to theory and practice
EditorsNeil THOMPSON, Gerry R. COX
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781138201064
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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