With the rapid development of modern society, traditional funeral customs have adapted to the changing times. The execution of these customs is no longer limited to the forms themselves but emphasizes more on their symbolic meaning. Today, I would like to introduce to you a common traditional ritual in funeral ceremonies called the “Nail Sealing Ceremony”.

1. What is the “Nail Sealing Ceremony”?

The “Nail Sealing Ceremony” is one of the essential rituals performed in traditional funeral ceremonies, and it is relatively common in Buddhist and Taoist settings in Singapore. In traditional burial practices, the coffin is very heavy, and it requires nails to secure the coffin lid tightly to the coffin. This gave rise to this ritual. The sealing of nails was traditionally done after the body was prepared and placed into the coffin, but nowadays, it is performed before the coffin is taken out for the funeral procession. The ritual involves symbolically hammering the nails on the coffin with an axe while reciting auspicious words to bring blessings to the bereaved family.

2. The origins of “Nail Sealing Ceremony”

In ancient traditional society, the concept of male superiority and the practice of having multiple wives and concubines were deeply ingrained. Women held a lower status, and coupled with difficulties in transportation, it was extremely rare for married women to have opportunities to visit their natal families. Except for cases involving unexpected incidents, which required reporting to the authorities and having coroners examine the body, most deaths were natural and do not have death certificates explaining the cause of death.

In a society where communication was limited, and conflicts among wives and concubines were common, if a woman pass away in her husband’s place, there is no one to ensure that she died naturally. Therefore, to confirm that the woman did not suffer mistreatment in her husband’s place and pass away naturally, it was necessary for his/her children to kneel and invite the woman’s natal family to perform the sealing of nails before the coffin could be sealed. This not only elevated the status of the woman’s natal family but also provided an additional guarantee for women who lived within the traditional practice of having multiple wives and concubines. If the natal family had doubts and refused to perform the sealing of nails, the coffin could not be closed, and the funeral procession would be postponed while the family continued to mourn. This gave rise to the “Nail Sealing Ceremony”. Initially, the ritual was only performed for female deceased individuals, but nowadays, it is also carried out for male deceased individuals.

3. Who performs the “Nail Sealing Ceremony”?

If the deceased is male, his children will need to kneel and invite the eldest male relative of the same surname (usually a paternal brother of the deceased’s generation) as a witness to the funeral ceremony. This ensures that the children follow the proper customs and rituals in handling their father’s funeral affairs after his passing. If there are no elder or same-generation relatives available, they can invite a younger relative of the same surname without the need for kneeling. During the sealing of nails, the younger relative should use a footstool to elevate the status of the “Nail Sealing Executor”, showing respect for the deceased.

If the deceased is female, the children should kneel and invite elder or same-generation male relatives from the natal family (usually the deceased’s maternal uncles or brothers of the same generation) as witnesses to the funeral ceremony. If there are no elder or same-generation relatives available, they can invite a younger relative of the same surname without the need for kneeling. During the sealing of nails, the “Nail Sealing Executor” should use a footstool to elevate their status based on their generation, as a sign of respect for the deceased. This ensures that the children follow the proper customs and rituals in handling their mother’s funeral affairs after her passing.

Occasionally, exceptions may occur in modern society. For example, there might be instances where unrelated influential individuals are invited as “Nail Sealing Executors” to accommodate the children’s preferences for appearances. However, from a perspective of etiquette, this goes against the true meaning of the ceremony. Those who uphold the principles of etiquette do not really support such practices. Professional funeral service providers will offer appropriate guidance based on various circumstances.

Shared by Singapore Funeral Group

介绍传统丧礼仪式“封钉仪式” (上)

随着现代社会快速发展, 传统丧葬礼俗皆顺应时代变迁, 礼俗的执行不再局限于形式本身, 而是更重视在礼俗的寓意性。今天要来向大家介绍一项在丧礼中较为常见的传统礼仪 “封钉仪式”。

1. “封钉仪式”是什么?

“封钉仪式”乃是传统丧礼必需执行的礼仪之一, 新加坡现今在佛教和道教场合中较为常见。传统丧礼施行土葬, 其棺木厚重, 需要用棺材钉将棺材盖 (天盖) 和棺木紧紧的钉在一起, 由此衍生这项孝道仪式。传统做法是在入殓后封钉, 现今则是在灵柩出殡前封钉, 使用“斧头”象征性敲打棺木上的钉子, 並口念吉祥话, 为丧家招福分。

2. “封钉仪式”的由来

古代传统社会, 男尊女卑和三妻四妾的观念深入人心, 女子地位低下, 再加上交通不便, 女子出嫁后极难有机会与娘家來往。除了意外案件必须报备官府, 由其派请仵作验尸记录, 其余百姓多数属于自然老死。因此, 並不是每一位亡者都有死亡证明来说明死因。

古代社会信息沟通不便, 加之妻妾争斗屡见不鮮, 倘若女子在夫家身亡, 没有人能够确保亡者是否是自然身亡。于是, 为了确认女方在夫家没有受到虐待, 属于自然身亡, 孝眷需要跪请女方的娘家人前来进行封钉, 之后才可以封棺。这不仅提升了女子娘家的地位, 也为传统三妻四妾观念中的女子提供多一份人生保障。如果娘家人存有疑虑不肯封钉, 则无法盖棺出殡, 必须一直停灵守孝。由此衍生出“封钉仪式”。起初仪式只用于女性亡者, 而如今封钉也用于男性亡者。

3. “封钉仪式”由谁来執行?

若亡者为男性, 子女需跪请“同姓”的长辈族长 (现今一般由亡者的男性平辈胞兄担任, 如果没有長辈或平辈, 需要邀请同姓晚辈時, 不需要跪请, 並在封钉時需使用脚凳来垫高“封钉者“的辈分, 以此表示对亡者的敬重), 为此次丧礼做见证, 确保子女遵照礼法为父亲办理身后事。

若亡者为女性, 子女需跪请娘家的長辈或平辈男性 (现今一般由亡者的平辈胞兄弟担任 (母舅), 如果没有長辈或平辈,需要邀请同姓晚辈時, 不需要跪请, 並在封钉時需使用脚凳来垫高“封钉者“的辈分, 以此表示对亡者的敬重), 为此次丧礼做见证, 确保子女遵照礼法为母亲办理身后事。

现今社会偶尔也會出现例外情况。比如, 邀请无血缘关系的“达官显要”作为 “封钉者”, 但这只是因应亡者子女们的场面需要, 对于礼仪的意义上则于礼不符。站在礼仪者的立场上並不支持此类现象。专业的殡葬从业者也会依照各类情况给予丧家正确的指导。

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