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Home Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony General Standards – Ancestral Remembrance Service Protocol

A. General Standards

1. Attire
Everyone must wear the ceremonial robe, shirt, hat and belt, with their own black trousers, sock and shoes. The above attire must be prepared for the first dress rehearsal. Chosen items must be labeled with names, and stored appropriately in readiness for the service. After everyone has changed into the attire, they must check each other’s attire to ensure that it is in order.

(1) Hat: While wearing the hat, note:
(i) the jade piece is centred.
(ii) the front edge is evenly positioned one finger’s width away from the eyebrows.
(iii) the knot at the back edge is securely fastened.
(iv) the chinstrap (silk ribbon below the jaw) is securely fastened, with the loop approximately 8cm long, and the length of the ribbon should reach the chest.

(2) Shirt: Worn as the inner garment. As it just provides the appearance of a shirt, it is referred to as the “shirt collar. ”Note:
(i) the seams of the “shirt collar” are turned in. What is worn on the inside and outside needs to be correct.
(ii) the right collar must be drawn downwards and wrapped once around the left underarm, the left collar is drawn over the right collar and wrapped once around the right underarm, then tied around the chest.

(3) Robe: Note:
(i) the buttons on the left and right sides and the small belt are fastened securely.
(ii) the belt is tied around the waist. If the garment is too long, use another coloured tie to lift and secure the hem.

(4) Belt: Note:
(i) the butterfly knot is secure.
(ii) after the knot is tied, the remainder of the belt known as the “drooping gentry” or more commonly as the “sword belt” should reach below the knee. The left end of the belt should be slightly longer than the right end.

(5) Shoes: Bring your own black shoes. Choose an appropriate shoe size to avoid the discomfort from prolonged standing.

2. Things to note

(1) Direction: By reference to the position of the Principal Officer(“Principal”), the ceremonial attendants to his right are known as the “East Ceremonial Attendants,” “Right Ceremonial Attendants” or the “Lead Ceremonial Attendant.” The ceremonial attendants on the Principal’s left are known as the “West Ceremonial Attendants,” “Left Ceremonial Attendants” or the “Second Ceremonial Attendant.”

(2) Procession
(i) Both arms are naturally lowered, with the left arm on the outside, the right arm on the inside, the webs between thumb and forefinger of both hands interlocked and positioned in front just below the navel. Stay relaxed.
(ii) When walking, ascending or descending steps, and crossing over the threshold of the entrance, start from the left foot. One should turn ninety degrees when turning corners.

(3) Positioning
(i) Once in position, one should check that relevant items are in order and keep the candles of the lantern light.
(ii) For Opening the entrance, the relevant ceremonial attendants should arrive at the entrance by taking their positions at its side. Open and close the main entrance on hearing “qǐ fēi” (“Open the entrance”) and “héfēi” (“Close the entrance”), respectively.

(4) Notes on sound volume adjustment
(i) Leave three to five seconds between each recitation of the ceremonial protocol.
(ii) Each syllable should be clearly audible and the tone should be one or two degrees higher than normal during recitations of ceremonial protocol and the Ancestral Remembrance Service Reading.
(iii) The ceremonial attendants’ voices needs to sound resonant, and project the recitation for each movement. The procession is led from the left foot and the final syllable needs to occur just as the Principal assumes position, at a higher volume.

(5) The Lead and Second Ceremonial Attendants must note:
(i) Hand gestures must always be respectful and convey an “invitation.” Extending the outer arm in front represents an invitation for the Principal to start walking or step forward. Moving the inner arm backwards indicates for the Principal to take his position.
(ii) While in procession, they must move in a triangular formation with the Principal.
(iii) The Lead and Second Ceremonial Attendants must focus closely on synchronising their pace. The Lead Ceremonial Attendant should ensure that the East and West Ceremonial Attendants progress together and not be too fast or slow. Any error in pace must be immediately corrected by the Lead Ceremonial Attendant.
(iv) Invite the Assistant Officers to take their positions on the red carpet about 15cm from its side and maintain an appropriate distance from the left and right. After they are in position, the Lead and Second Ceremonial Attendants must stand half a step away, on the outside of the Assistant Officers.
(v) When the Assistant Officers move forward, they must face the central memorial tablets, so they should stand in a line that is slightly curved inwards. When moving towards the back, they must face the entrance.
(vi) As the Lead and Second Ceremonial Attendants move past, the Assistant Officers must turn to face each other and wait for them to return to the team, then follow the Lead and Second Ceremonial Attendant son and off the stage to assume or resume position.
(vii) During the Reception and Sendoff for the ancestral spirits, the Principal will turn clockwise to face the back as the fan and the parasol pass. On hearing “xiàng duì bān” (“Each side to face the other”), the Assistant Officers will turn from the inner side to face the entrance. When the fan and the parasol return, follow the Principal to resume positions. During the Sendoff, on hearing “zhū wèi qǐng zuò” (“Please be seated”), the Principal and Assistant Officers will turn as described above to resume their positions. When necessary, the Lead and Second Ceremonial Attendants will quietly remind the Principal and Assistant Officers to turn to face the entrance or to resume their positions.

(6) Wash area
The Right Ceremonial Attendant holds the handle of the ladle with both hands, the left hand in front of the right, to ladle water from the centre of the earthenware vessel, and pours the water for the Principal to wash his hands. The Left Ceremonial Attendant holds the tray containing the towel with both hands, and offers the towel for the Principal to dry his hands. When the towel is returned, it should be placed in its original position, then the Left Ceremonial Attendant turns to face the centre of the walkway.

(7) The lantern and the incense burner
(i) Lighting incense: incense must be lit before the Reception and Sendoff for the ancestral spirits, extinguish the incense after Sendoff. The lantern and incense burner are positioned side by side, with the lantern situated on the outside, and the incense burner situated on the inside.
(ii) Reception for the ancestral spirits: Once the ceremonial attendants are at the stands for the fan and the parasol, on hearing “yíng shén” (“Welcome the spirits”) and as the drum sounds for the second time, step forward and stoop to take the lantern and the incense burner. The inside hand is in front of the other, which remains close to the waist, holding the dragon staff with the dragon head kept at shoulder level. When the drum sounds for the third time, both left and right sides turnaround and stand upright. When the drum sounds for the fourth time, step out with the left foot, follow the sounds of the bell and the drum to process out from the outer side of the stands, along both sides of the walkway. After the Reception, move along the centre of the walkway on the way back, and resume positions from the inner side of the stands.
(iii) Sendoff for the ancestral spirits: similar to the Reception, with the hand gestures, entry onto and exit from the walkway being reversed.
(iv) Bowing: Bow three times during the Reception and Sendoff. For the sake of uniformity, designate one person to quietly direct the bows. When bowing, take care to maintain the lantern and incense burners in their original positions (no need to tilt them).

(8) The fan and the parasol
(i) Reception for the ancestral spirits: After the ceremonial attendants assemble at the stands for the fan and the parasol, on hearing “yíng shén” (“Welcome the spirits”), the drum sounds for the second time, stoop and reach out to hold the items. The parasol will be held by the East Ceremonial Attendant, the fan will be held by the West Ceremonial Attendant, with the inside hand at shoulder height and the outside hand slightly below the navel. Both items are held straight and level with each other. As the drum sounds for the third time, take one step towards the centre and stand upright. As the drum sounds for the fourth time, step out with the left foot, follow the sounds of the bell and the drum to walk to the centre of the walkway. The left and right sides turn and process out with the incense burner. After the Reception, process in following the incense burner, walk up to the middle of the walkway then turn left and right, follow the path towards the outside and turn to resume position at the stands.
(ii) Sendoff for the ancestral spirits: as per the Reception above, with the hand gestures being reversed.
(iii) Bowing: as per paragraph (7) entitled “The lantern and the incense burner.”

(9) Presentation and removal of the food offerings
When the music for “jìn zhuàn” (“Presentation of the food offerings”) begins, the ceremonial attendant in front of the memorial tablets uses hisleft hand to remove the lids from relevant vessels on the altar. The lids are placed leaning on the right side of those vessels. For vessels without lids, use both hands to shift them slightly. When removing the offerings, replace the lids and shift those vessels without lids slightly to their original position.

(10) Presentation of the incense
(i) On hearing “shàng xiāng” (“Present the incense”), light the incense to be used.
(ii) Stick a red paper band around the middle section of the incense. The incense is received by the Right Ceremonial Attendant using both hands, with the thumbs, index and middle fingers holding the edge of the red paper closest to the middle, with the tip of the incense on the left. The incense is then presented to the Principal. The Principal uses the index and middle fingers of both hands to hold the upper section of the incense, the left hand on the outside, the right hand on the inside, and the thumbs press the end of the incense with the incense slightly tilted upwards for the presentation. After the presentation, the Left Ceremonial Attendant receives the incense in the same way as the Right Ceremonial Attendant, and inserts it into the centre of the incense burner. To insert the incense, the left hand holds the incense, the right hand brushes the left sleeve aside as the incense is inserted.

(11) Presentation of the silk and ceremonial offerings
Using both hands, with thumb and index fingers pressing on the upper edge of the tray, the Right Ceremonial Attendant holds the inside edge of the plate in front of the Principal’s chest. With his right arm being below the tray, he turns ninety degrees left and present it to the Principal. The Left Ceremonial Attendant has his left arm below the tray, turns left ninety degrees to receive the tray, and places it on the left side of the altar or the incense table.

(12) Wine vessel
(i) The cloth cover is double-sided, one side is red and the other is yellow. It is arranged with the yellow facing externally, on top of the vessel. When the food offerings are presented, the Right Ceremonial Attendant will walk behind the vessel, remove and fold the cloth cover and leave the cloth cover behind the vessel. Place the lid of the vessel on top of the cloth.
(ii) On hearing “jiǔ zūn shēng zhù jiǔ” (“Please pour the wine”), the Right Ceremonial Attendant turns around, both arms hold the ladle to pour the wine,with the left hand in front of the right hand, no need to fill fully. After the wine is poured, the Right Ceremonial Attendant returns to his position.
(iii) The wine is poured in the following order: the central vessel first, then right, then left.
(iv) After the wine is poured, wait for the Principal to resume his position, the Left Ceremonial Attendant then uses both hands to hold the two legs of the bronze wine vessel, with the handle on the left. They then follow the Principal and puts it on the right side of the altar.
(v) As the food offerings are removed, the Left Ceremonial Attendant walks behind the wine vessel, covers it with its lid and the cloth cover, this time with the red side facing externally.

(13) Carrying the bronze wine vessel
(i) Presenting the bronze wine vessel: the Right Ceremonial Attendant uses both hands to hold the two legs of the wine vessel with its handle on the left, and presents it to the Principal. The Principal uses his right hand to hold the handle, and the left hand to hold the leg, either to present the wine offering or to drink the wine.
(ii) Presenting to the memorial tablets: present the bronze wine vessels by their legs, two legs facing internally, one left facing externally, and place the first in the centre, the next one to its right, and the final one to its left. Take care that the handle of the vessel faces the right side of the memorial tablets.

(14) Presenting, drinking and consuming ceremonial offerings
The Right Ceremonial Attendant holds the incense, silk, wine vessel, the offering tray in front of the Principal at chest level. The Principal receives those items by momentarily holding them at chest level, raising them up to his eyebrows to make the offering, then lowering them down to chest level. The Left Ceremonial Attendant then takes those items from the Principal. The Principal should not need to turn either to receive or to have those items taken from him. When drinking the wine, lift one’s head to take a small sip, then raise the wine to one’s eyebrows.When consuming the ceremonial offerings, pinch a small piece to consume, receive the offerings tray with both hands and then raise it up to one’s eyebrows.

(15) Ceremony of Three Bows
To maintain uniformity, one should wait until the Master of Ceremony and the ceremonial attendants have finished their calls to bow, before stooping to bow. The Ceremonial Supervisor does not bow at all throughout the Ancestral Remembrance Service.

(16) Incineration
As the ceremonial attendant carrying the Ancestral Remembrance Service Reading and the silk approaches, the Left Ceremonial Attendant should light the paper money in readiness for the Right Ceremonial Attendant to take the Reading and the silk for incineration.

(17) Carrying the Ancestral Remembrance Service Reading and the silk
(i) The tray must be carried at the height of one’s eyebrows with both arms straight.
(ii) The head must be slightly lowered. Walk by looking at the path from below the tray. While walking, press the thumbs gently against the Reading and the silk,to avoid those items flying away.
(iii) After the ceremonial attendants have taken the Reading and the silk, move away from the incineration from its right side, stand on the left of the Left Ceremonial Attendant and then follow the fan to return to position.
(iv) When returning to position, there is no need to raise the tray to one’s eyebrows. Just hold the tray at the level above one’s navel with both hands.

(18) Other notes
(i) Before the music starts, the drum and the bell are each struck once and all the ceremonial attendants and musicians wait until after the bell has sounded. They start moving the second time that the drum sounds. The drum and the bell are each struck once separately at the start of each music section, and then the bell, the drum and other musical instruments play together. The bell is struck once before the music for presentation and removal of the food offerings begins, and both the bell and the drum then remain silent during that music.
(ii) During the ancestral remembrance service, all members of the team should maintain a natural level gaze and a dignified manner. Avoid scratching or touching one’s head, and looking around or behind, as such movements are considered as breaches of ceremonial etiquette.
(iii) The ancestral remembrance service protocol is most solemn. All team members must have a tidy and respectful appearance and stand up straight. Growing a moustache, a beard and long hair are not permitted.
(iv) As team members must change into ceremonial attire, do not carry valuables to avoid such items being lost.