Göran Aijmer: Earth, Death, and Fire in Eastern China. Musings on an Ethnographic Note of 1868


A communication from 1868 tells us that in the eastern Chinese provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu it was common for people to cremate their dead. Being a rather unusual practice in a Chinese environment, this particular custom is discussed here from an anthropological perspective, a number of suggestions being made to form an “experimental” holistic explanation of this variation in traditional funeral procedure. The use of coffins, fire and ceramic urns is profiled against a background of the cultivation of rice, the production of silk, cross-cousin marriage and the position of women in this area. Women are seen as a key element in this cultural complex.

[Eastern China, funerals, marriage, women, ancestors, rice, silk]

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