Funeral for Hmong general Vang Pao begins on Friday in Fresno

February 2, 2011 

Gen. Vang Pao will begin a journey into the afterlife on Friday when Hmong elders start a six-day funeral to guide his spirit home.

Many Hmong consider the ceremony to be a critical final stage of life.

"Your body will die, but the soul will move on and connect to the next life," said Bee Yang, a Fresno State faculty member and Hmong language and culture expert who is one of the funeral supervisors. "In order to connect to the next life, there's a proper way they have to do it."

A traditional Hmong funeral lasts three to four days, but six days were needed for all the funeral rites for someone as important as Vang, organizers said.

As a military leader allied with the U.S. during the Vietnam War and later as a patriarch for refugees in America, Vang had been an influential figure for decades.

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