Cultural Universal

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Cultural universals are specific behavioral elements that are common to every culture. Anthropologist George Murdock compiled a list of cultural universals, including sports, cooking, courtship, dancing, family, games, music, religion, and marriage. Although Murdok's universals are found in every culture, the way in which they are expressed varies from culture to culture.

Funeral rites are practiced in every culture in some form. A funeral is a ceremony marking a person's death. There are universals that have remained consistent in funeral service: announcing the death; care of the deceased; a method of disposition; a possible ceremony or ritual; and some form of memorial. These customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious affiliations within cultures.

On the Asian continent, China makes up the largest culture, in terms of population. There are two main traditions that are observed in Chinese funeral rites. In the first tradition, the funeral ceremony traditionally lasts over 49 days. The first seven days are the most important. Prayers are said every seven days for 49 days if the family can afford it. If the family is in poor circumstances, the period may be shortened from 3 to 7 days. Usually, it is the responsibility of the daughters to cover the funeral expenses. The head of the family should be present for at least the first and possibly the second prayer ceremony. The number of ceremonies conducted is dependent on the financial situation of the family. The head of the family should also be present for the burial or the cremation. In the second tradition, the prayer ceremony is held every 10 days. After 100 days a final prayer ceremony is conducted, but such a ceremony is optional and not as important as the initial ceremonies. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, to which most Chinese Buddhists are affiliated, it is believed that between death and rebirth there is an intermediate period called Antarabhava in Sanskrit or the Bardo in...
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