What are some customs and traditions that have to do with death in Wang Lung's culture in The Good Earth?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Wang Lung's culture, when a person dies, his or her body is placed into a coffin bought by the family.  The coffin is carefully sealed "according to custom", and a geomancer is consulted to determine a lucky day for burial.  When the right day is found, the coffin with the body in it is kept either in the decedent's home or at the temple.  When Wang Lung's father died, his body was set "upon two benches in the middle room (of his home)...and there it stood until the appointed day came".  In contrast, however, when Wang Lung's wife O-lan died, Wang Lung could not bear to have her coffin "under his eyes in the house", so he went to the temple and bargained with the abbot to rent a place for the coffin until the day of burial.

On the day appointed by the geomancer, the priests from the Taoist and Buddhist temples are called.  They arrive in their traditional robes and beat drums and chant "the whole night through".  The priests are paid for their services in silver.  After the chanting, the coffin is taken to the burial grounds and the family follows, on foot if they are poor, and in chairs carried on men's shoulders if they are prosperous.  The family and all involved in the ceremony wear white, the color of mourning.  When the coffin and mourners arrive at the burial grounds, the person who has died is finally laid to rest in the earth (Chapter 26).

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The Good Earth

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