29 April, 2009

Last Ride Through Chinatown

I had the good fortune of witnessing a traditional San Francisco Chinatown funeral the other day. Led by the Green Street Mortuary Band, the procession made its way down Grant Avenue. A large, flower bedecked portrait of the deceased was followed by the hearse containing the coffin which was trailed by a limousine bearing family members. Paper "spirit money" was thrown from the window of the limo as it rolled along. Another section of the band followed. The musical selection was a variety of Christian hymns and they were performed as a kind of "call and response" with the front section playing a hymn succeeded by another hymn performed by the band in the back. Similar funerals were once a regular part of the Chinatown scene, but like a lot of elaborate traditions, they are less common today. The origin of this style of funeral is believed to be in 19th Century Hong Kong.

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