Vietnamese Funeral Traditions

Social status and religion influence Vietnamese funeral practices, but Vietnamese funerals generally share a few things: They last several days and are filled with solemn beauty and respect for the person who has died. Rose Hills is a foremost expert in Vietnamese funeral traditions. Our funeral planners—many of whom speak Vietnamese—specialize in culturally sensitive funeral and burial traditions, and they work closely with families to design ceremonies that truly reflect the unique lives of the people being honored.

Staterooms at our Whittier mortuary and the newly built Hua Yuan Ceremonial Complex are designed with the specific cultural needs of Asian families in mind. Our state-of-the-art witness crematorium allows families who wish to participate in the cremation of their loved ones to do so.

Traditional tea service and welcoming bench offer a quiet place for reflection.
A man and boy sit in the shade of an established tree while visiting at their place of remembrance.

Characteristics of a Vietnamese funeral

As with all Asian funerals, honoring tradition, customs and heritage is fundamental to Vietnamese ceremonies. Typically, the family plays a key role in shaping a ceremony, as do monks or priests. From the colors of dress to the length of visitation, the characteristics of a Vietnamese funeral ceremony are significant yet varied.

A deep reverence for elders is a cornerstone of Asian culture and an important part of Vietnamese funerals. Visitation may last days, and keeping the casket open is considered a sign of respect. After a visitation, friends and family usually share light refreshments and time for remembrance.

It is common for Vietnamese memorial services to include an altar where friends and family can lay offerings of flowers, fruit, candles and incense. In fact, incense burning is a prominent part of Vietnamese funerals. Odd numbers are considered lucky by the Vietnamese, and when lighting incense, guests should choose three or five sticks, with three being the ideal. Likewise, when guests bow their heads at the casket, they should bow three or five times.

Funeral guests frequently give gifts of money to the family before the funeral. White flowers—especially the white lotus, which symbolizes purification and regeneration—are appropriate. Family members and the person who has passed typically wear white; guests wear black or gray.



Burning incense and intricately designed bells create a collage of Vietnamese traditions.


The Buddhist funeral

Not quite half of Vietnamese Americans are Buddhist.

Reincarnation plays an important role in Buddhist funeral traditions, as Buddhists see death as a transition from this life to the next, bringing the soul closer to Nirvana, a state of absolute bliss. Death is also an occasion of major religious significance, serving as a reminder of the Buddha’s teaching on impermanence as well as providing an opportunity to assist the loved ones as they travel on to their new existence.

A Buddhist funeral is simple, solemn and dignified, usually occurring within a week after death. Many take place in a funeral home, not a temple. The one day viewing usually starting in the morning or noon lasts well into the evening, generally the day before the funeral, and typically includes the ambiance of candlelight and incense. During visitation, the family sits at the front of the room, greeting those who have come to show support.

A monk typically conducts the funeral. There is almost always an open casket to allow attendees to say goodbye. Guests are expected to bow toward the loved one as a sign of appreciation for lessons regarding impermanence of life. There may be a meditation period and chanting.

After the funeral ceremony is complete, a funeral procession follows the casket to the cemetery for burial.

While Buddhist funeral customs vary from country to country, Buddhists often choose cremation. For some, it is customary to witness the cremation. The Witness Crematorium at Rose Hills accommodates this preference.


Rose Hills Photo Contest entry

Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Columbarium

Built in 1999, the three-story Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Columbarium is the largest Buddhist pagoda in the United States. With crimson pillars and golden glazed tiles, its architecture harks to ancient Chinese palaces. Atop a hill, the columbarium has views of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, as well as a bird’s-eye view of Sycamore Valley and SkyRose Chapel.

The lobby of Hua Yuan Ceremonial Complex at Rose Hills showcases the elements of water, sun and air.

Hua Yuan Ceremonial Complex

Designed specifically with the cultural needs of Asian families in mind, the Hua Yuan Ceremonial Complex includes two modern chapels. Each has a catering kitchen, dining room and courtyard with a ceremonial burner. At the heart of Hua Yuan is an elegant reception area that showcases the elements of water, sun and air. Rose Hills introduced the complex—which welcomes families of all cultural backgrounds—in 2019.

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Planning a Vietnamese funeral at Rose Hills

For a funeral that honors your family’s Vietnamese culture, customs and the wishes of your loved one, contact us. Rose Hills associates speak many languages, including English and Vietnamese, and are well-versed in Vietnamese cultural traditions.

Whether you are planning a traditional tribute, would like to set up an extended visitation or are looking for cemetery property with positive feng shui, we will work with you for meaningful and beauty. Get started by downloading our funeral planning guide or contact an advisor today.


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Particular passions, milestone moments and legacies created weave together to tell a story that is completely unique. The Insider’s Guide to Funeral & Cremation Planning will walk you through inspirational ideas and the simple steps to planning an unforgettable memorial of a loved one’s life—or your own when you plan in advance. Download your FREE planning guide today.