Buying water or asking for water is one of the rituals at the Chinese funeral, and is responsible by the deceased’s eldest son or grandson.

In Cantonese funeral customs, this ritual is generally the same.

“Dan Fan”

“Dan Fan” symbolic the filial duties to be done by the deceased’s eldest son or grandson during the funeral. The “Fan” ( “幡” ) is make up of a thin wooden pole with a white cloth strap attached to its end. As times goes by, the current “Fan” has been replaced by a bamboo stick, with a lantern alike paper artifact tied at the end of the stick.

Buy water

In the past, most funerals are done at home. The main hall of the home will be converted into a mourning hall and the coffin will be placed at the main hall. The deceased’s eldest son or grandson will fetch water from the nearest river, put down some money symbolic buying of water. The water will be used to bathe the deceased before they put on their shroud.

“Ask” for water

Usually only applies to deceased who have not yet formed a family. Because they have no children, grandchildren nor nephews. The Taoist priest will then do prayer to “ask” for water from the river.

As time goes by, the ritual of buying and asking of water has been simplified. Nowadays funerals are held at HDB void decks or funeral parlour, there is also no river to fetch water. Hence river water has been replaced by tap water. Candle and joss stick will be lighted and prayer will be done at a corner near the void deck. A few coins will be drop to symbolic the buying or asking of water.

The Cantonese believe that funeral related stuff cannot be given as gifts. It required money to buy or ask for water as this symbolic good luck for the deceased’s family.

The Cantonese origin version of Dan Fan and buying water ritual

There was a story that tells the origin of the ritual of Dan Fan and buying water.

Long time ago, a woman and her son were dependent on each other. The son is a grumpy and violent person. Whenever he is dissatisfied, he will scold the mother and sometimes even beat her up. The poor women silently endure the torture as she loved her son so much. Her son is an iron smith and works in a factory to support the family. And because the woman loves her son, she prepares the afternoon meal for the son and bring it to the factory every day. Knowing her son’s temper, she would be beaten if she arrived late, the woman will deliver meals to her son on time every day.

At the front yard where the son works, there were several big trees that provide shade for the workers to rest during break time. On one lunch time, as usual the son sat under a tree waiting for his mother to bring him his lunch, he heard a croaking sound from the tree. He looked up and saw a young crow bringing back food to feed an old crow in the nest. Looking at the scene, the son suddenly realised his mother’s hardship in bringing him up, and yet he not only did not appreciate that and often scold and beat his mother, which is really unfilial. He feels ashamed and guilty on what he has done to his mother all the while. Even a beast will not do something like that. After this, the son told himself he must treat his mother well from now on.

Tragedy happened on the same day when the mother was to bring him his lunch. For some reason, the mother was delayed and late in sending lunch for her son. She anxiously rush to the factory. The son saw the figure of his mother from afar, started to run towards her mother with joy hoping to admit his mistake and ask for forgiveness. However, when the mother saw her son running towards her, she thought that the son will again scold her and beat her for being late. In her fear, she dropped the meal and turned around to run away. The son, not knowing why chased after his mother. When the mother reached the river bank, with her fear, sadness and disappointment, she jump into the river to end her life. The mother was drowned and the body was floating on the river when the son saw her. As the son does not know how to swim, and there were green bamboo trees planted near the shore, he quickly cut the green bamboo and use it to pull the mother’s body back to the shore.

The son was filled with guilt and regret and started to cry. When he saw the mother’s face and body was covered with dirt, he took off his clothes and fetch water from the river to clean his mother’s face and body. He then used the green bamboo and make it into a pole and tied his mother’s body with his clothes to the pole and bring the mother back home.

From then onward, “Dan Fan” and buying water or asking for water is one of the rituals that must be done at the Cantonese funeral to symbolic filial piety.

The above story is derived from a senior Cantonese Taoist priest. It is solely for reference and reading pleasure only.

担幡买水 或 担幡请水

担幡买水或担幡请水是华人治丧时的一个仪式,由死者的长子或嫡孙于丧礼中进行。

在广东人的治丧习俗里,这担幡买水或担幡请水仪式也普遍的相同。

担幡

“担幡”是由死者的长子或嫡孙在丧礼中为死者献上孝礼之一的仪式。所谓‘幡’ 是由一支细木棍,棍端绑有白色布条随风飞扬,由死者的长子或嫡孙担著。随着时间的转变,现在的“幡”,已改由用竹支,在竹枝的尾端绑着一个类似灯笼的圆形纸竹笼。

买水

以前的人大多在家中为亲人办丧事。家中大堂改设为灵堂,将棺木摆放在家中大堂。死者的长子或嫡孙会到最靠近家的河流打水回家,这些河水是用来帮先人沐浴更衣,清净身体。当中是要放下像征式买路钱,称买水。

请水

通常只适用于尚未成家的男女先人。因为无儿无孙无侄,唯有请道长到河边念经请水替先人沐浴更衣,清净身体。

发展至今,买水或请水的仪式已经普遍简化了。现在治丧通常是在组屋楼下或殡仪馆举行,也没有河流可取水。水龙头水以取代河流水。然后在办丧处旁边烧香点烛,象征式丢下几个银角,仪式买水或请水给先人沐浴更衣,清净身体。

广东人认为,所有白事并不可以送赠的,定要丧家的真金白银买回来,为丧家带点好意头。

担幡买水的由来

在民间,有一则留传着担幡买水仪式的起源故事。

很久以前,有一位妇人与儿子俩相依为命。儿子是个脾气暴躁兼有暴力倾向的人,一有不满就会对妇人动粗。妇人因为疼惜爱儿也只有默默忍受。儿子是打铁工人,每天在工厂工作養家糊口。而妇人因为疼惜爱儿,每天都往工厂为儿子送饭。因为知道儿子的脾气,一迟到就会挨打,所以妇人每天都准时为儿子送饭。

在儿子工作的地方的前院门口,种有几棵大树可让打铁工人休息纳凉。有一天正当午饭时间当儿,妇人儿子坐在一棵大树下纳凉等候妇人的午饭,突然听到树上传来了呱呱声。抬头一望,刚好瞧见一只年轻乌鸦正在喂食。仔细一看,鸟巢里是一只老乌鸦,正吃着年轻乌鸦带回来的小虫。见到此情景,儿子突有所悟。想着母亲含辛茹苦把自己养大,自己不懂感恩还对老母亲又打又骂,实在是不孝。乌鸦尚有反哺之恩,自己的所做所为,实在是禽兽不如。经此一幕,儿子告诉自己从今以后要好好善待老母亲。

事情就发生在妇人为儿子送饭的这一天。妇人因事让人给耽误了送饭的世间,因此着急着一路带跑的往儿子的工厂送饭去。儿子从门口处,远远看见老母亲身影,高兴的就往老母亲奔去。因为他要向老母亲认错和请求老母亲的原谅。妇人从远处看见儿子朝自己奔来,这下可慌了。惊怕这次因为送饭迟到又要给儿子打,惊慌之下,把饭丢下转头就跑。儿子在后头一值追着和叫着老母亲,老母亲就越惊慌跑著。跑啊跑着来到河岸边,想着这次给儿子逮着又要挨一顿毒打,想着想着不觉万念俱灰,生无可念,就往河里跳。妇人儿子追到河边时已太迟了,妇人已遇溺,尸浮河上。妇人儿子见此情景,不禁悲从中来,跪在岸边到嚎大哭。眼见老母亲尸体尸浮河上,自己又不懂水性,刚好岸边种有青竹树,赶紧砍下青竹,用来打捞老母亲尸体。

好不容易把老母亲尸体拉上岸,只见老母亲身上和脸上都粘满水泥,心中难受,赶紧拿下自己衣服,到岸边洗净,用来为老母亲抹净脸上和身上的水泥。随后,再把青竹做成扁担,用布把老母亲身体绑上,半扛半拉的把老母亲的尸体带回家办理后事。

从此之后办丧人会为先人担幡买水以敬孝道。

以上的故事由来,是从老一辈的广东道长口述而来。只供大家参考和阅读乐趣。