Today, 4th of April 2012, is Ching Ming Festival (清明节), which is also known as the tomb-sweeping day. It is a culture prevalent among the Chinese, regardless of their religion and nationality. This is when the queitness in Chinese cemetries takes a break and allows some liveliness to set in for a week or so, as some people may decide to do tomb-sweeping the weekend or a couple of days before the actual day.
The living, usually the entire family, will visit the grave(s) of their loved one(s), largely their ancestors such as parents or grandparents and so on. Gardening tools for clearing weeds, offerings like the favourite food and beverage of the departed as well as flowers are common items brought along for tomb-sweeping. And yes, not forgetting the insect repellent.
Tomb-sweeping provides the living an opportunity to pay respect to and do something for the departed as a gesture of remembering them. The event can also be good for family members to meet and gather, especially for extended family members, who otherwise see one another merely during Chinese New Year celebration.
Often joss sticks and candles are lighted and formally offered to the departed by saying prayers, before they are placed upright in an incense burner. Some may also burn paper money and gifts for the departed. Yes i know, not friendly to the environment, but how else can the departed receive their luxury cars and mansions, servants and maids, branded clothes and accessories?
In land-scarce cities, dwellings are packed and compact, all the same for the living and the dead. Hence niches, beautifully decorated and well managed by temples and professionals, are encouraged and preferred over burial. Perhaps also due to the lack of a need for tomb-sweeping, i mean, literally the act itself. But for whatever possible reason, there seems to be an emerging trend of performing tomb-sweeping on Ching Ming Festival by just clicking a few options in front of a computer.
If you wish to get a bit of the poetic feel associated with Ching Ming Festival, type “qing ming” in Google search bar or click here. Hurry, it won’t be there forever, as if trying to tell us that, hurry, our loved ones who are still around won’t be here forever.