Qingming Festival (All Souls’ Day)

By Paul chong                  Mon. 5 April 2010

This is a long-established Chinese festival that falls on the 104th day after the winter solstice or around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar.

It is a statutory public holiday in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The Tomb Sweeping Day is an opportunity for Chinese to remember and honor their ancestors at traditional grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, paper accessories to the ancestors.

Food like roasted suckling pig, steamed chicken, fruit and wine are offered during the ceremony.

Qingming literally means “Clear & Bright” & the Festival is variously known as Ancestors Day, Tomb Sweeping Day & All Souls Day. Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and tend to the graves of departed ones.

All the families visit shrines and ancestral graves to perform their customary rites. A few of the rites performed by the people are cleaning up the family graves, burning incense, joss paper and candles, repainting dedications, and offering food items in memory of their ancestors.

In Singapore . . .On just 12 hectares of land, you will find more than just a place for worship here at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple, situated on the Bright Hill Road. Besides the temple, there are prayer halls, meditation halls, gardens, pagodas, a vegetarian restaurant, a large turtle pond and a crematorium. There is even an old folk’s home. Take time to wander through the grounds. Study the intricately crafted figures of dragons and phoenixes. Feel the hassles of life slip away as you become aware of the constant hum of prayer in the air. Before long, you may wonder if you have actually stepped back in time to ancient China.

Qingming in Singapore is one of the most significant festivals and is observed only for a day. In Singapore, many of the temples, crematoriums and cemeteries are crowded with family people who pay homage to their ancestors.

Flower Offering @ Beijing Babaoshan Cemetery

In this DNA era, if the visit is not possible on the actual date, normally veneration before Qingming is encouraged . . . before rather than after is the norm. This modern observation of the practice takes on innovative ways.

As the tradition of burning paper money & joss paper causes pollution, people are finding new ways to remember their ancestors. In China, new ways are being adopted:

  • In Fengxishan Cemetery in Xi’an, mourners can get a flower free of charge or exchange their money paper for flowers.
  • Cemetery management also offers post cards on which visitors can put words of mourning.
  • It’s said to be fashionable these days to do away with burning of any paper.
  • Modern way of offering flowers.

Nowadays, the Internet even provides a service whereby you can register to send a memorial if you are unable to return home or find it impossible or inconvenient to do so – especially for those who have migrated overseas or working far away from home.

One such mourner in Xi’An, Liu Kunpeng said, “I can do everything in real life to remember my grandpa on the Internet memorial. Lighting candles, burning incense, presenting flowers or even toast to my Grandpa.”

Chen Cuihua went back to her hometown every Qingming Festival for tomb sweeping, this year she chose to use a kite to remember her grandmother. She said, “I hope the kite will bring my thoughts and blessings to my grandma.”

We are living in a changing time; so long the heart remembers, all due respect & honour will be accorded.

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