Speakers for the Dead -- they exist in China!

Reading about the professional mourners in China, the first term comes to my mind is "Speaker for the Dead"--a book by Orson Scott Card.

It's a curious concept that a funeral is to be a spectacle in grief. In regret, I might understand. In joy, it's the kind of funeral I'd want to for myself. Heh.

HU XINGLIAN kneels before the corpse of Liang Zhicai and, with one hand on his metal coffin, lets out a piercing wail. But Ms Hu is not at all grief-stricken - she is a professional mourner.

In parts of China, where rural pre-burial rituals are still observed, mourners known as 'kusangren' are hired to guarantee that a funeral is a spectacle in grief. And the 53-year-old Ms Hu is up to the task.

She comes to work with a full sound-system, multi-colour spotlights and the six members of her band, 'The Orchestra of the Star and River of Chongqing'.

Her job offers a study in contrasts between modern living and tradition in the southwestern province-sized municipality, home to more than 30 million people and a symbol of the rapid urbanisation seen across China.

'People in the countryside still show a lot of respect for their dead ancestors,' says Ms Hu, who gained a following in the Chongqing area under a stage name, Ding Ding Mao, which means 'Dragonfly' in the local dialect.

Her performance for the funeral of Liang, who died aged 70, takes place under a canvas tent mounted on metal poles outside a forest of rundown buildings.

From Straits Times, "In China, professional mourners spice up funerals".


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