Managing the dead in Hong Kong

Pao Yue-kong Library Electronic Theses Database

Managing the dead in Hong Kong


Author: Chan, Kam-tong
Title: Managing the dead in Hong Kong
Degree: M.Sc.
Year: 1999
Subject: Funeral rites and ceremonies -- China -- Hong Kong
Funeral service -- China -- Hong Kong
Burial -- China -- Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Multi-disciplinary Studies
Dept. of Management
Pages: ii, 109 leaves : maps ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: Death comes to all of us on earth: taipans and taxi drivers, the brilliant and the brainless, men and women, black, white yellow and brown, the billionaires as well as the paupers. Method of dead disposal varies with religious belief and culture of the people. Hong Kong had been under British Administration for 155 years from 1842 to 1997 but its population remained dominantly Chinese. Traditional Chinese customs are therefore the major vehicle of influence to the style of living in the territory. The ritual of dead disposal is no exception. There are various means of disposal for dead bodies. In Hong Kong, dead disposal comes only in two ways, either burial or cremation. In 1998, the former takes up 23 percent and the latter 77 percent, as opposed to a 99:1 ratio some 40 years ago. The inception of cremation as the main stream of dead disposal shows concrete evidence of cultural change for the people, but at slow pace over a lengthy period of time. This dissertation is divided in two parts. In part one, I outline the early burial history of British soldiers, sailors and sojourners of different religious beliefs at private cemeteries in Happy Valley. This was the place where the Hong Kong British first implemented their burial policy since the Treaty of Nanking. In contrast to Western burials, I give an account on the cultural value of the indigenous Chinese in Hong Kong towards dead disposal. In one particular sector of the community, namely the funeral industry, business thrives on the acumen of funeral directors who invariably either hypnotize or put pressure on the relatives of the deceased to spend beyond their means on expensive funeral services. Taking advantage of people's lack of experience in bereavement services, funeral director advises their clients like lawyers and medical doctors but charge no less than these professionals. Since the days of Haddon Cave, the government of Hong Kong has unequivocally adhered to the practice of positive non-interventionism. There was no control over how people in the funeral industry charged their customers. It ends up in the funeral directors allowing their commercial interests to take precedence over customer choice. A funeral turns into a distress purchase, in the truest sense of the phase. The major of my research falls on Part II. I try to analyze from different perspectives how our society has come to a phenomenon of this queer nature. I take the opportunity in the last chapter to find some practical solutions to long-established problems of exorbitant funerals. I believe my study in the area of bereavement services is unique. It is a commitment to improving the standard of bereavement services by confronting rather than disguising the death experience, and by reducing ignorance. I hope that the research will give the bereaved greater influence over the arrangement of funerals, thereby controlling costs and offering more satisfaction.

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