The only certain thing in life is death. People from all wakes of life around the world deal with the death of a loved one in a manner dictated by culture and tradition. Often we try to discern meaning from death, and as a result customs around burial vary from culture to culture, some are downright taboo from the perspective of others.
Mummification - Egypt
Egypt is renowned for the mummification process. The preservation of the body after death ensured it would still be in good condition for the soul to return later. For the longest time, mummification was thought to be a natural process, but further research uncovered the complex mummification techniques. The entire belief system of Ancient Egyptian burial customs revolved around attaining immortality. In the beginning, only pharaohs could aspire to obtain a place in the afterlife. In subsequent years, the desire for the afterlife extended to everyone, and the means for transitioning were available to all. Of course, money played a huge role in the possibility to prepare one’s body for immortality, so the richer a person was, the more changes one had to get the proper embalming methods and rituals necessary.
Jade burial Suit - China
The death of royal members in the Han dynasty came with a new form of burial practice, that of clothing the dead in jade suits. Many historic documents described these suits but until recent archaeological discoveries, they remained nothing more than legends. In 1968 the tomb of Prince Liu Sheng and his wife Princess Dou Wan, belonging to the Han Dynasty was discovered confirming the existence of jade suits. They were made up of 2000 plates of jade meticulously bound together with different types of string. Depending on each royal member’s aristocratic status, some suits might be tied with gold, silver, or silk threads. It was believed that jade helped preserve the body but studies show that the bodies inside are far less preserved than mummification. Their use was discontinued so that looters would not be encouraged to steal from tombs. Now they are a marvel of archaeological discovery.
Fantasy coffins - Ghana
People in Ghana make use of unique coffin designs, and go out in style. The coffins are usually modeled by what the person did in his life, which can be related to their work, or something they loved during their life. A shoemaker might have a coffin designed to look like a shoe. It used to be tradition to bury a loved one with a small object representing something they loved, but now that turned into the fantasy coffins of today. It’s an interesting spin on honoring one’s dead and ancestors while keeping in with tradition.
Burial beads - South Korea
A more recent burial custom coming from South Korea was born out of a necessity to save space in an already densely populated area. In opposition to ashes that can be spread somewhere, burial beads have been introduced as a replacement. The remains of a loved one are thus transformed into smooth gem looking beads. They even come in different colors and the process costs around 900 dollars. Although it seems unusual in the west, it has become more and more popular in South Korea.
Ultimately, death will come for us all while the legacy we leave in our descendants lives on long after the last breath has been drawn. However, a culture chooses to deal with the death of a loved one, the important part is keeping the memory of the person alive once they are no longer among us.