Quora is a popular English-language website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. When someone asked the question, “In Chinese etiquette and behaviour, if a child asks his father what happens after death, what would be his response?”, a variety of comments were offered.

The following humorous response from Tao Geng best summarised many of the answers:

Most probable answer: No.3: After death, you are dead.
Most probable answer No.2: Go and ask your mum.
Most probable answer No.1: Have you finished your homework?

Another Quora contributor, Kaiser Kuo, who has lived in Beijing for 20 years, gave his insights in response to the question:

“One might quote the sage Confucius, who is said to have replied to a similar question, ‘You do not even understand life. How can you understand death?’ Hardly comforting to a child, of course. Or one might appeal to the more Taoist streak in the Chinese psyche, and invoke a kind of yin-yang dualism and say to the child, ‘Death is a natural part of life, and death is what gives life its particular value. That life is short, that we are all of us mortal—that is what makes life so precious and valuable.’ That’s hardly very comforting either.

Most Chinese are nominally atheists, but spirituality and belief in a ‘soul’ is, I’ve found, extremely widespread. Most parents I’ve known and with whom I’ve discussed this issue are quite fine—depending on the age and the precocity of the child—with using the same comforting utterances: Grandma’s in a better place now; Grandma will always be with us in spirit; Grandma is looking down at us from Heaven; that sort of thing.”

Adela Zhang added to the conversation by giving her viewpoint on ‘Heaven’:

“As a Chinese, my father told me that my grandma had gone over the stars, beyond the sky, a better place dead people go. We don’t say Heaven though we know what it is but in our eyes Heaven belongs to the West.”

In China it is not uncommon for parents to travel and stay in cities far from home in order to find better employment. The children often stay behind and are cared for by their grandparents. A child will likely form a tight bond with these grandparents and when a beloved grandparent passes away, it is often the young person’s first experience with the death of someone close. It can be a very traumatic time.

Richard Li added his experience to the Quora conversation:

“I asked this question with my father, but all I got was a smack on the back of my head and a stern ‘go do your homework’. So instead I asked my grandma. I recall as we sat on her bed in the tiny house we shared, she told me that there’d be nothing. You die and your body will be burnt and the memories gradually fade away. I recall vividly that after hearing that, the room darkened, it felt like it was almost being covered by a grey curtain, and a dreaded feeling of lost gripped my heart. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I couldn’t deal with the fact that my grandma will one day fade away into nothingness. I remember thinking well if all is for nothing, then what’s the point of living in the first place?”

Prayer Pointers:

  • Thank God that children are not afraid to ask the question, “What happens after death?”
  • Pray that Chinese children will not be satisfied with fake answers and that they will have a hunger to continue seeking after the truth. Pray that this question will also provoke their fathers and mothers to look deeper for the truth.
  • Thank God that death is not the end and that we have the wonderful promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Pray that many more in China will come to know this amazing truth.

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