Bone collecting

Bone collecting (Cantonese Jyutping: Zap1 gwat1; Traditional Chinese: 執骨, literally "to collect the bones") is a burial ritual practiced in certain parts of East Asia. Peoples known to adopt some forms of this custom include Cantonese, Hoklo, Taiwanese, Ryukyuan, and Zhuang.[1][2] Most of these groups are related to Baiyue, and indeed ancient Han Chinese had literature that documented such customs being practiced by various Baiyue tribes.


Cantonese traditions

Among Cantonese, the standard practice of bone collecting involves first unearthing a coffin with a dead body that has been buried for at least five years (thus can be expected to have largely decomposed), and then leaving the coffin partly open in order to let out the stench of decay. As the stench became bearable, the dead person's offspring would, using Cantonese, formally asked the dead person to "wake up" (Jyutping: Hei2 san1 laa3; Traditional Chinese: 起身喇). After some rituals, the "bone collector", a person specifically trained to do this ritual, would respectfully and carefully collect the bones from the coffin (hence the name "bone collecting"). The next step involves cleaning and drying the bones, which usually takes at least four to five days. The final part of the ritual depends on the offspring's will: They may want to grind the bones into ashes, or put them into containers called "golden towers" (Jyutping: Gam1 taap3; Traditional Chinese: 金塔, literally "golden tower"). These containers will then be put in the countryside or cemetery for a peaceful rest.[3] In Cantonese customs, choices of where to put the golden towers may be dependent on Feng shui.

In Hong Kong and Macau, it is legally mandated that bone collecting must be conducted after 6 to 7 years of burial on land.[4]

See also


  1. ^ 卢敏飞. (1989). 壮族拾骨葬述议. 广西民族研究, (4), 84-89.
  2. ^ 赵麟斌. (2009). 闽台民俗述论.
  3. ^ "我問你答:執骨師傅怪異經歷". 蘋果日報. 2007-03-14.
  4. ^ "新鮮職業執骨師!為先人拾骨,若壞了規矩便容易出事!". 每日頭條. 2016-07-25.

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