Sunday, April 02, 2006

Qing Ming

Typically fixed in the month of April, the Qing Ming festival is also one which follows the Lunar calendar. Usually it falls on the 4th, 5th or 6th of April; pertaining to the leap years as well.
This year, however, the festival falls on the 5th of April; a Wednesday.

Qing Ming, also known as the Chinese version of All Souls' Day; is the time where most of the Chinese community will pay a visit to the cemetery to pay respects to their late ancestors. During this time, most of the family members will make it a point to be present and thus it is also a time for family reunion. Typically, that's why you always hear the phrase in Hong Kong series, "If there's anything to discuss about, we can talk about it when we visit the cemetery" (Yau mat yeh lau fan pai san sin chi kong) - an expression which describes the time when everyone(literally) will be present.

Also, for the convenience of the contemporary working people, this occasion can be observed from 10 days earlier or later; thus giving them the opportunities to have the allowance of more than 2 weeks to fulfill their duties to visit their late ancestors' graves.

I came across this website which describes the Qing Ming festival as "Clear Brightness" in literal terms and also it is a "Tomb Sweeping Day". Technically, it's based on the tradition whereby the descendants will clean and sweep the graves/tombs clean during the visit. It's typical since this is an annual visit and thus the grounds will be in an unkept situation. Furthermore, the Chinese are into the idea of growing the grass around the tombs to ensure prosperity and wealth to the future generations. In fact, I recalled from my grandmother that the longer these weed grass grows, the more wealth the family can be assured of. Some even go to the extent of planting the grass and then shaving them off each year when they visit the graves.

Anyhow, from this particular website: it seems that Qing Ming was not originally observed as a tomb visiting day; it actually followed from the Spring celebration and as they traced it to two weeks after the vernal equinox. It is in a way also opening the doors to the planting season. People in the olden times observed the occasion with songs, dances, and having fun.

Today, this trend is strengthened with the most important value in the Chinese culture, the bonding of the familial relationship. It is important that everyone is there to pay their respects to their late ancestors; which is after all, only once a year. This is also in view of the Confucius teachings on the importance of filial piety.

Coming to terms with the continuous growth of advanced development, we can very well expect progression as well as commercialization of this yearly event. The traders are getting smarter with the various items which are used as offerings to the dead.
In case you are wondering, when they visit the graves, they usually bring food, joss sticks, and also paper paraphenalia to be burnt as offerings to the dead "down there".
Some of the paper items include cars, houses, technology gadgets, maids, furnitures, etc - all made of paper.
The food offered are usually cooked food which are supposed to consist of the favourite food of the deceased.

They will burn the paper money, then the items which they purchased for the comfort and luxury of living of their ancestors in the netherworld. If you do happen to go to some of these shops selling items for worship, you'll be amazed with the creativity of the items they have in the shop; they have the latest models of the cars and houses are of the bungalows type, latest cellular phone models, trendy and fashionable clothes, etc.

Well, these are all so idealistic which makes it seem that they fare better than they were after they have passed on to the netherworld. You may be poor in living when you were alive but look at all the luxurious items you could possess once you have died. I am not stating that this is non-believing practices; to burn the paper paraphernalia to the dead; to believe it or not, it's entirely the customs and I respect that:)

However, to me whether you are rich or poor is not measured by wealth or the number of luxurious cars or houses you have. It all comes from the things you have done while you live, you may be poor but if you live a good life, you will be assured of the reputation of dying as a fulfilled man. Also, if there was a netherworld, I believe in retribution. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around. You may think you can get away with all your evil deeds but in fact, they will always be there; blood in your hands to remind you of what you have done.

Reflecting from a story which I read in the True Singapore Ghost Stories about this rich man who turned his back on his poor servant in times of need, and when he died he suffered in the purgatory which he was stripped to rags and poor while his poor old servant, with a pure heart of gold, enjoyed the good times in Heaven.
The poor rich man....

- Yer may be a rich man in life but a poor rich man after life -

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