When reading Xi Xi’s “My City”, I came across at chapter nine a passage on death and funeral, which is rarely touched on by critics, and the “musical” scene in the passage left a particularly deep impression on me. A highly symbolic scene, it tells of the manner in which funeral service is practiced:
“Soon after the funeral procession had left, another procession came into view from afar. This time it was joyful event. At the head of the procession were two Taoists in bright red robs embroidered with the taichi sign. They had in their hands bells on sticks, like lollipops, which they rang as they walked along: ding ding ding. The musicians following in their wake where making festive Chinese music. And then came the people carrying roast pigs on red wooden trays, with flowers stuck on all the pig heads.”
Xi Xi describes the funeral procession as such: “All those concerned would cry and moan, and the funeral band would play its brass instruments, making a sort of Western music which did not really sound sad.” Immediately following the funeral procession is the festive one, also the moment when the sound of sadness is met with that of joy, which together perform a song of life pervaded by both bliss and sorrow. While death and funeral symbolize the separation from the old or previous generation, the festive procession, which comes next, symbolizes hope as expressed in the act of embracing the new or younger generation. Xi Xi hopes that the young people in my city will no longer grieve for death or indulge in the past, but face the bright “here and now” and future.
Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Literature and Cultural Studies, EdUHK