Around 9:45 last night a group of 20 or 30 people — some neighbours and their relatives — wearing white turbans and some in all white clothes, casually and loudly picked up the flower stands, paper-mâché cow, and the litter, marched out into the middle of the nearest intersection and burned it all. It’s a Tianjin funeral:
The ribbon is kind of hard to translate, but it’s sort of like a card you’d give someone at a funeral, something like: “from Elder Brother Diǎn of the next generation with deep condolences” (晚辈点哥敬挽 / wǎn bèi diǎn gē jìng wǎn).
Each place in China has its own variations of funeral customs. We see this occasionally in Tianjin, though this is the first time it’s been right next door to us. These photos are of stairwell 3, taken from our stairwell (stairwell 4).
We watched them haul everything off to the intersection from our our kitchen yáng tái （阳台） window (they were right below). It’s not a solemn or formal procession; the flower stands are held any which way (flowers falling out all over) and people yelling, “Hey, grab that, let’s get going!” There were also firecrackers this morning around 7am, as is usual for Tianjin funerals.
I took these photos yesterday morning a little before 8am, so it was still a little dark.
It’s my understanding that publicly displaying respect for the deceased is the main point of it all. The details of the rituals and personally believing or not believing in the traditional superstitions (迷信) apparently isn’t what matters most to the participants.
See the related articles below, especially “There’s hell to pay” for more info and photos on why people burn stuff in the roads for their dead relatives.