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Funeral

Tibetans follow six ways of burial: burial in the ground, celestial burial, water burial, cremation, and burial in tower and mixed burial. The custom of burial in the ground originated early. Examples are the Tombs of Tibetan Kings in Qonggyai and the Tubo tomb on the Lhe Hill in the Nang County. The common people are accustomed to such a burial way, which was popular until the 11th century.

Later the burial custom changed with the Buddhism ideas. The burial in tower is a high-class burial ceremony, which is used only for high-ranking Living Buddhas. The tower is usually built with gold, silver and mud, which preserve the body or bone ash of the dead. The cremation is often applied to Living Buddhas and revered monks. The water burial is also a popular burial ceremony among common Tibetans, whose importance is next only to celestial burial. In celestial burial, the bodies are exposed to birds of prey. The mixed burial refers to the ceremony, which includes burial in the ground, cremation and water burial. It will last for one year, with frequent ceremonies to offer sacrifices. It is often used in Lhoyu area of eastern Tibet.

The scale of burial ceremonies differs. Generally, monks will be invited to hold rites to expiate the sins of the dead, which will last 49 days. At the first anniversary, commemorative activities will be held.

When one dies, lamas are invited to chant sutras to redeem the sins of the dead. Relatives of the deceased give alms in monasteries, and keep vigil beside the body for seven sets of seven days, with each set ending in mourning activities. During this 49-day period, neighbors and relatives refrain from singing, dancing, or even speaking loudly. Regarding burial ceremonies, the celestial burial is dominant. The celestial burial grounds east of the Sera Monastery in the northern suburb of Lhasa and the Palbengang Celestial Burial Ground are the most famous. The Tibetans believe that when one has been dead for exactly one year, he/she will return to the world. At this time, his/her relatives will invite friends to sing and dance at home to mark the new life of the deceased's soul.

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