Bulang Ethnic Minority: Stair Burial- a Burial with no Tombs
Every Blang village has a public cemetery called “Shan (hill).” The Blang people regard “Shan” as a place where spirits of the ancestors reside and all those who die a normal death are to be buried there.
Although inhumation and cremation are both applied by the Blang people, inhumation is the main form of burial. Coffins are made either of wood or thin Bamboo strips. The ancient tradition of “stair burial” and “piling burial” are kept until today. In the “stair burial,” the dead are buried according to age and generation in different stairs of a stair-like cemetery. In most cases, a cemetery has four steps. The dead of an age over 70 are buried in the highest one, those from 60 to 70 in the second, those from 30 to 40 in the third, those less than 30 in the fourth. The dead must be buried facing upward with the head to the west and the foot to the east. There is no tomb. Due to the narrowness of the graveyard, the old burial place must be reused according to the age of death when everywhere has been occupied. “Piling burial,” in which a burial place often accommodates many male or female corpses of an age section, is thus formed.
When a Blang living in Xishuangbanna is dead; his family will inform the headman titled as “Zhaoman.” “Zhaoman” will then give a notice to all the villagers to show their sympathy. The family members must clean the body of the dead and dress him or her with new clothes. The body stays in the house for one to three days, during which a chanting by Buddhist monks or shamans is held to release his or her soul from purgatory. Then, the dead will be put into a coffin. Some tea leaves, bananas, rice and wax chips are put into his or her hands; a white line is tied to one of his thumbs. When the coffin is to be carried out, the line is cut, which means separation from his or her family and cutting the soul’s way back. The family members should hold a memorial ceremony in the graveyard with wax chips, salt, and grain on the following day.