- Grave visitation and concepts of life after death : a comparative study in Frankfurt and Hong Kong (2012)
- Grave visitation is a tradition common to many cultures. Yet, this sensitive topic is rarely addressed in cross cultural comparisons. Why do people visit the graves of their parents? What do they do in the cemetery? Could there be a similar set of intentions behind the diverse customs? By examining the visiting patterns in Frankfurt and Hong Kong, this research is aimed at comparing the concepts of life after death that underlie the practice. Phenomenologically oriented, this is an exploratory study based on qualitative interviews. Integrated with in-depth semi-structure interviewing and thematic analysis, the project covered twelve cases in each city. Research participants were purposefully selected. Data analysis was conducted according to the analytical framework approach. After identifying and clustering of themes, three central and interlocking issues were found: 1. the grave as a new home that connects the living and the dead; 2. death and the interpretation of hope; and 3.intergenerational reciprocity and continuing bonds. Though the images of life after death were ambiguously depicted, grave tending reflected shared expectations of the world beyond. Most significantly, visits to the graves strengthened the ties between the living and the dead, revealing a longing for a continued bond regardless of the forms of burial. At the end, this research illustrated not only the meanings of death but also the notion of religiosity through evaluating the secularisation thesis. Emphasising the dynamics of tradition and personal experience, this contextual reading of current death rituals serves as an original source for religious dialogue and education.