Photographys by MARY ELLEN MARK

In every society there is a rite to honor the deceased and consecrate their passage to the next world. These rites help the survivors make the transition from anger and grief to acceptance as well as to confront their own mortality. In the Chinese traditions of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, death is considered a passage to rebirth. Dressed in white, the traditional Chinese color of mourning, grieving relatives and friends accompany the body to the cemetary. They ignite firecrackers to ward off unfriendly spirits. When the coffin is placed in the ground, family members perform an act of closure by tossing a handful of dirt on the grave. Closure is an important facet of death rituals.

In Andean villages of Peru, closure does not occur until a year after death. The clothing of the deceased is ritually laid out on a table and surrounded by candles. Mourners pray all night around these symbols of the departed. By morning, it is believed that the living and the dead are both free to move on.

A Chinese funeral procession