Friday, April 4, 2008

Ching Ming Festival 清明節

A view from the Nirvana cemetery near Tuaran

Today is 'Ching ming' (Clear Bright Festival).
It is a day for the Chinese to remember and honour ancestors at grave sites. Ching Ming rituals involve cleaning and weeding of the grave site, and cleaning and touching up the writings of the headstone.
For some food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, are placed in front of the headstone as an offering to the spirits of the deceased.
The burning of incense and imitation paper money are also very important for many as that is beleived to be for the deceased to use in the afterlife.
I remembered my aunties offering a feast with a whole chicken, a slice of steamed or roast pork with crunchy skin attached (shiu yoke), and many varieties of rice cakes, fruits and alcoholic drinks before my grandparents' tombs.
Three sets of chopsticks and three Chinese wine cups are always arranged closest to the headstone (until today, I still have no idea why three sets).
When everything is in place, the eldest of the household usually begins by bowing three times with three sticks of incense in hand in front of the headstone, then stick the incense into a small urn filled with sand.
This procedure is repeated with every member of family present.
Some families will then eat the food together there at the grave site, like having a picnic with their deceased relatives.
We never do that for the simple reason that the day get too warm to stay at the grave sites after completing all the rituals even when we start the preparation at the crack of dawn.
The Chinese Christians will offer flowers and candles.
All these rites are very important.
Most of the families would have preformed this ritual a week or so before the actual Ching Ming day which falls on either 4 or 5 of April each year.

A rather taboo subject but with the growing scarcity of land resources in many countries and with the perception that we human, inevitably must return to the earth, to Mother nature, many are considering less conventional ways regarding burials.

A cemetery in Taipei actually avocate decease's ashes to be placed in biodegradable containers and buried next to a tree in a special tree burial ground.

Another green option- ashes of the dead are cultivated into the ground to give sustenance to flowering plants, shrubs and small trees in the same cemetery.

Burial at sea is also becoming a popular choice.

Sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach

A good friend's husband passed away years ago. She opted for cremation and later scatter the ashes at sea. Come Ching Ming day, wherever she is, she'll take a ride out to sea or to the beach for the remembering and honouring ritual.

All these demonstrate how radically attitudes are changing concerning burials, but hopefully, the true essence of Ching Ming will remain and always be observed, ie a day to remember and honour one's ancestors and departed love ones.



frank said...

Ching Ming to the traditional graveyard seems to be dying out (pun unintended) gradually as more and more people are opting for cremation and scatter technique, in fact even I would choose the oven and then into a an elegant vase and maybe tucked into a small hidey hole at my relative's grave. Takes less space and less work, and less ma-fan too.


ekeng said...

I love all the photo...especially the sunset photo..It's very beautiful.

a feast, everyday said...

frank, like ur attitude especially the 'oven' part. Oven would b my choice too and to be scattered over a place tt holds dear to my heart would be ideal. I wonder if there is any law regarding that. r we getting a bit morbid or wat???

ekang, tq. u know we r so lucky tt here in KK we get beautiful sunsets most days and they r always different.

Precious Pea said...

Spectacular view at Nirvana!! The one in Semenyih not as good.