February 27th, 2013


Taiwan's most famous professional mourner

Crying on command isn't easy, but Liu Jun-Lin is hired to do it every day, at funerals for people she never knew. She's Taiwan's best-known professional mourner - a time-honoured tradition in her country that may be dying out.

Crying for a living is controversial, seen by some as the commercialisation of grief, but mourners like Liu say their profession has a long history in Taiwan, where according to tradition the deceased needs a big, loud send-off to cross smoothly into the afterlife.

"When a loved one dies, you grieve so much that when it finally comes time for the funeral, you don't have any tears left," says Liu.

"How are you going to suddenly switch your mood to show all that sorrow?"

Liu is there to help strike the right tone.

In earlier times, daughters often left home to work in other cities, and transport was limited, she explains. If someone in the family died, they often couldn't make it home in time for the funeral, so the family would hire what's known as a "filial daughter" to lead the family in mourning.

Traditional Taiwanese funerals are elaborate, combining sombre mourning with louder, up-tempo entertainment to fire up grieving spirits.

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