8646Re: Re: Colors, was de-lurking and a question
- Nov 12, 2002Hi. Chiming in for a moment. Just a few thoughts on the death and colors
I don't know this for a fact, but an anthropologist friend of mine says
that white associates with death because the dead are cremated, and the
ashes left behind are white.
There is also an association with white = purity in Chinese culture. (And,
of course, the Japanese may have inheritted it thus.) The dead were
dressed in white because it was thought that they should appear pure when
they moved on to the next life/world/realm/whatever. White paper would be
wrapped around cherished items and the items burned, thus sending the item
to the deceased in the next world. A tradition that continues to this day
at Chinese funerals is to give out white envelopes with sweet candy (to
take away the bitter taste of death) and hell money to be burned. The hell
money helps the dead in various transactions in the afterlife. (I'm
imagining there's a thriving economy in the buddhist hell, between hell
money and bartering cherished items . . .) There is a resultant saying
that white envelopes are unlucky, and tend to contain bad news. White
Scarves and White Rings were apparently particularly associated with death
Shinto equates the color white with purity. The idea of wrapping a corpse
in white to purify it seems to be present in most cultures.
There seems to be a little correlation to this in parts of India also, so
it may have followed along with Buddhism. There is an Indian / Hindu
connection in the fact that color related to caste and karma. The darker
your skin, the worse your karma (and therefore the lower your caste) was
thought to be. The Brahmins were generally pale skinned. So perhaps
dressing the dead in white was an attempt to upgrade their ticket to the
next/after-life a bit?
One might also note that the typically visible flesh of a corpse loses much
of its color, can become quite pallid, because the blood is pulled out of
it by gravity. Even very dark skinned corpses can become quite pale. Thus
white may again associate with corpses.
Black is apparently associated with death in the Western world because of
the Romans. It was a tradition for mourners to dress in black because it
was thought to hide the mourners from the spirits of the deceased who might
otherwise try to haunt them. As such, the tradition of wearing black to
mourn predates Christianity, but also seems to follow it out of Rome.
Just some thoughts.
--Ishii no Jinkuro (or is it improper to write that "no"?)
On 11/12/2002 02:51:12 AM sca-jml wrote:
>Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 04:07:38 -0900 (AKST)
>From: Ii Saburou <logan@...>
>Subject: Re: Re: Colors, was de-lurking and a question
>On Mon, 11 Nov 2002, makiwara_no_yetsuko wrote:
>> Recent encounters with Heian and Kamakura period literature mention
>> black and shades of grey were worn by women in mourning during those
>> periods, though black might also be worn by Imperial princes (not in
>> mourning). Anybody know when the custom of white = death arose?
>I can't remember which is which right now, but one is the color associated
>with death in the Buddhist tradition imported from the mainland, and the
>other is associated with death in the Shinto tradition.
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