When looking at how death is experienced culturally in Malaysia, it is important to keep in mind that people of Malaysia come from a vast variety of backgrounds and different cultures. Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Eurasian culture all have their place in Malaysian society. Religious influences also include Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, and many others. Unlike the United States and Japan, religion plays a larger role in rituals surrounding death (Long, 2004). In this blog, I will be focusing largely on the religious cultural script of death life events in Malaysia.
Chinese Malaysians make up a large part of the middle class in Malaysia. Similar to Japan, there is an increased emphasis on ancestors when dealing with death (Long, 2004). Confucianism is one of three belief systems for Chinese Malaysians. Confucian refers to the importance of caring for one’s parents. Specifically, the philosopher states that men are the one to fulfill these type of family duties. This would include taking care of parents when they pass on (Eyre, 2002). This emphasis on ancestor worship includes the belief that ancestor spirits can have influence over a community of people. Family members of deceased loved ones might make offerings on altars and pray to appease the souls of theirs ancestors (Eyre, 2002).
When laying a body to rest, burials are the most common practice. In these funerals, when a coffin is lowered into the ground, people are asked to turn away, because looking is a sign of bad luck. Alternatively, in Hinduism a body is washed by the next-of-kin before a priest would begin funeral services (Rite to Grieve, 2011). For Chinese Malaysians, even the location of a burial is very important. A Feng Shui framework is used when looking for a proper burial site. Feng Shui incorporates the forces of yin and yang to seek a balance between the natural world and the human world. A good burial site will bring prosperity to both the living and deceased members of a family. For example, the side of a hill may be a ideal final resting place because it allows ancestors a good view while also guarding from evil spirits (Eyre, 2002). It is important to note that death in this culture is seen only as the beginning of a new life. The soul will continue on from the body to new stages. There is a strong interconnection between the living and dead.
For Malaysians in general, and not only Chinese Malaysians, there is a strong interest in the metaphysical. Malaysia does boast a strong biomedical system concentrated in major cities. However, these services are decreasingly available the farther someone goes into the rural areas of the country. In these areas Chinese Herbalists and Malay healers can be found more frequently. Spiritualism is spread out over all areas of the country, but more religious cultural scripts regarding death are found in these rural areas. It is difficult to pin down only one view of major life events in Malaysia, because there is such a variety of ethnic groups, religions, and cultural values found in the country. Regardless, the religious cultural script when dealing with death is the dominant system in Malaysia.
Eyre, Anne, and Robert N. Fisher
Death Rituals in Malaysia. Essay. In Suffering, Death, and Identity. Amsterdam: Rodopi
Long, Susan Orpett
Cultural Scripts for a Good Death in Japan and the United States: Similarities and Differences. Social Science & Medicine 58(5): 913–928
Rite to Grieve
PressReader.com – Connecting People Through News. https://www.pressreader.com/malaysia/the-star-malaysia-star2/20110404/281479272950315, accessed July 21, 2018