Got to Chiang Mai last night and am staying at C.M. Bluehouse based on a recommendation in a post I read on the forum and I would like to also recommend C.M. Bluehouse. Great place. Anyhoo, when I was walking around exploring the city today I came across something interesting that I had not seen before. At the center-south of the old city at a seemingly random place on a curb, there was a small circle of about 5 monks and a few Thai laypeople. One of the monks was praying/chanting. In the middle of the circle were a few pig heads dressed up ceremonially and flowers, candles and incense. There was also a small mound of dirt or sand that seemed to be shaped like a small human figure. I didn't stop and look on but walked on by as it seemed to be a very serious and somber ceremony. I am very curious as to what it was that I saw. I'm guessing that perhaps the death of a person occurred there or something like that? Anybody ever seen something like this?
#1 novagorilla has been a member since 25/2/2013. Posts: 7
So I was just way off base to even ask?
You are aware of the nature of this kind of ceremony?
You are implying that I am insensitive to, and look on at very serious cultural practice like a visitor to a zoo?
That's not me. I was simply inquiring about the nature of a ritual that I came across and touched me deeply. I didn't stop or take photos. It shook me a bit and I was just looking for some input as to what I had seen.
#3 novagorilla has been a member since 25/2/2013. Posts: 7
For the record I dont think your question is inappropriate or off-base in any way. It didnt seem to me like you were making some sort of specticle of the situation, but you saw it in passing and were curious about what the significance of it is.
If we as humans can't ask basic questions like this about other cultures and traditions how does one expect us to understand and appreciate the differences between all of us? Just because it's related to a death doesn't make it off limits if you ask me. We all die.
I'm also curious, what was this all about? Leonard, if you know, please, enlighten us.
#4 Drew84 has been a member since 6/7/2011. Posts: 36
Leonard don't be a dick.
I just went outside to ask my wife and the neighbors. They have no clue whatsoevre what said ceremony might be for. I've lived here six years and have never seen anything remotely resembling it.
Sounds very similar to some Chinese ceremonies and offerings to ancestors. Those are prevalent this time of year as we approach Tomb Sweeping day. With the start of April we enter the 'mood' of that holiday and around China you will see circles drown out with paper money being burnt in them, incense sticks and the like. Families in China don't have monks do offerings anymore - though I have seen that in HK, Taiwan and Hakka communities in Indonesia. Could be that it was a death from this year and so they are making extra offerings . . . though not often I see Buddhist monks involved in these ceremonies - usually Taoist or City-God Temples.
There are a variety of reasons for the "pigs head" ceremony. Could be if someone is building a new house or a couple is getting married it's basically an offering to the gods to clear the way for good fortune, success, babies, wealth, etc. Poor families might use a chicken or a fish but pig is a sign of wealth. You might have seen this at the central intersection on the old city where there is a shrine marking the "center" of Chiang Mai, and note they are also re-building Rachadamnoen road now so it could be for that, or because April marks the Thai New Year. Anyway it wasn't because someone died there.
P.S. I recommend Blue House as well. I lived in room 309 for 2 years.
"I am very curious as to what it was that I saw." Exactly. Rather than walking from banana pancake to banana pancake the OP saw the local people involved in something that is well outside their normal experience and was struck to wonder. Isn't that what we want travelers to do. In fact, I praise the OP for not just wondering, but going that extra step to try and reach out and find out what it was.
OP didn't even say it was a funeral, just a ceremony - didn't know if it was a funeral or not. DAMN YOU OP FOR BEING CURIOUS ABOUT THE CULTURE YOU ARE VISITING!