When we think about funerals, we often think of them as solemn occasions where we pay our last respects to a loved one who has passed away. However, across different cultures and religions, funerals can take on vastly different meanings and practices. Today, we will be delving into the key differences between Chinese funerals and Buddhist funerals.

Chinese Funeral Services

Chinese funerals are deeply rooted in tradition, with customs that date back thousands of years. They reflect a blend of beliefs from Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, with regional variations and influences.

Mourning Period

In traditional Chinese funerals, the mourning period is usually 49 days, reflecting the belief that the soul of the deceased wanders for seven weeks before reincarnation. During this time, family members wear mourning clothes, often in white or black, and abstain from public events to show respect for the departed.

Funeral Rites

Chinese funeral rites include a wake, which can last for several days, during which relatives, friends, and acquaintances come to pay their respects. The body of the deceased is displayed in a coffin, surrounded by flowers, candles, and incense. Offerings of food and joss paper (burnt as a symbolic offering to the deceased) are common.


After the wake, a procession takes the body to the burial site. The procession is usually led by a band playing sombre music, followed by mourners carrying banners and scrolls. The coffin is then buried, often accompanied by more offerings.

Buddhist Funeral Services

Buddhist funerals, on the other hand, are influenced by the teachings of Buddha. They focus on the concepts of impermanence, suffering, and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Mourning Period

In Buddhist funerals, the mourning period varies depending on the sect of Buddhism followed. Some observe a 49-day mourning period similar to Chinese tradition, while others have shorter periods.

Funeral Rites

Buddhist funeral rites typically involve a wake where monks chant sutras to help guide the deceased to the next life. Mourners may also participate in chanting and meditation. Instead of lavish displays, simplicity is encouraged, reflecting the Buddhist principle of detachment from material possessions.


Unlike traditional Chinese funerals, cremation is common in Buddhist funerals as it symbolises the impermanence of life. Ashes are often stored in a columbarium or scattered in a place that held significance for the deceased.

Key Differences in Singapore

While there are similarities between Chinese and Buddhist funerals due to the influence of Buddhism on Chinese culture, there are also key differences:

1. Focus: Chinese funerals tend to focus on honouring the deceased and ensuring their peaceful journey to the afterlife. Buddhist funerals focus more on the impermanence of life and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth

2. Rite: While both types of funerals involve a wake and chanting, the content and purpose differ. In Chinese funerals, the rites aim to ensure a good reincarnation for the deceased. In Buddhist funerals, the chanting of sutras is meant to help the deceased attain enlightenment and escape the cycle of reincarnation.

3. Burial vs. Cremation: Traditional Chinese funerals favour burial, while Buddhist funerals often prefer cremation as a reminder of the impermanence of life.

4. Mourning Period: Both traditions may observe a 49-day mourning period, but the reasons and practices during this time can vary.

Additional Differences

Certainly, here are some additional differences between Chinese and Buddhist funerals:

5. Attire: In traditional Chinese funerals, the family of the deceased usually wears white, a colour associated with death in Chinese culture. On the other hand, in Buddhist funerals, black is often the colour of choice for family members, symbolising mourning and loss.

6. Ceremonial Objects: Chinese funerals often involve burning joss paper, or hell money, as a symbolic offering to ensure the deceased has money to use in the afterlife. In contrast, Buddhist funerals rarely use these items, focusing instead on spiritual offerings through prayer and meditation.

7. Role of Monks: In Buddhist funerals, monks play a significant role, leading the ceremony, chanting sutras, and providing spiritual guidance. While monks can also be present at Chinese funerals, their role is not as pronounced, and the ceremonies are often led by the eldest son or a senior member of the family.

8. Ancestor Worship: Ancestor worship is a key element in Chinese funerals. Shrines are often set up in homes to honour the deceased, and families regularly make offerings at the gravesites of ancestors. While ancestor reverence is also found in Buddhism, it is less ritualised and more about expressing gratitude and respect rather than worship.

While Chinese and Buddhist funerals share some similarities due to cultural overlap, they also have distinct differences shaped by their underlying beliefs and philosophies. Understanding these differences not only provides insight into these rich traditions but also helps us navigate these ceremonies with sensitivity and respect.

Make a Reservation Today with Buddhist Funerals Singapore

If you’re looking for professional assistance in planning Chinese Buddhist funerals and more, Buddhist Funeral Singapore is a trusted name in the industry. With a deep understanding of Buddhist customs and traditions, we provide compassionate and respectful funeral services to ensure your loved one’s journey to the next life is handled with dignity and care. Whether it’s helping you understand the intricacies of the rituals or guiding you through the process, our team is committed to providing support every step of the way. Contact us today.

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