What is the the placing a pearl/ball custom/tradition come from in China? I have inferred they used to put pearls in the deceased mouth for safe passage through the underworld but this seems slightly different although may be related.
I found the following on Wikipedia
Tomo Miličević finds a dead woman lying on her bed, and someone proceeds to put a small black ball (A ball of mercury, which is a Chinese custom) into her mouth. Wikipedia article
As a side note according to Wikipedia the Sanskrit word for alchemy is Rasavātam which means "the way of mercury". Being one of the few liquids at room temperature I could see this be used for similar purposes in Chinese history.
apparently it is from "The Last Emperor" movie. I just watched parts of the movie and they put a black pearl in her mouth when she dies I believe. I believe the Wikipedia article is wrong. Here is the scene from the movie. http://youtu.be/liUd2tukV3E?t=5m36s Here are some sources https://andrewsidea.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/the-last-emperor/ https://web.archive.org/web/20150506200811/http://www.mooreablackpearl.com/pearl_legends.htm