03 April 2010

Qing Ming Festival

Today, we went to pay our respects to the deceased parents of my father-in-law - a yearly ritual observed by the family. In all, usually about 7 families would turn up for this occasion. The elders in the family would be my parents-in-law and and my father-in-law's brother.

The whole group would arrive at the cemetery around 10am, and tend to the grave and begin laying out offerings of food and drink, as well as lighting candles, joss sticks and joss paper (spirit money). Every family member would step up and offer to the ancestors joss sticks, and pour some tea and wine onto the ground. The finale would be the lighting of fire crackers. We also do not forget the graves neighbouring those of our ancestors, as we also walk around and offer joss sticks to the other graves.

The entire family would then adjourn to the nearest relative's place to enjoy the food that was offered to the ancestors - the menu for the day usually consists of generous portions of roast pork, roast chicken, roast duck, char siu pau (steamed pork buns), chung (rice dumplings), cake, colourful steamed buns (fatt ko) and fried noodles (always cooked courtesy of Eldest Aunty thank you Tai So!) And so the event would conclude by lunch time.

Some believe that Qing Ming originated in the Tang Dynasty, with Emperor Xuanzong. Yet others associate Qing Ming with Jie Zi Zhui, who lived in Shanxi province in 600 B.C. Qing means "pure" or "clean", and Ming means "brightness". Whatever practice is observed, the basic observation of Qing Ming is to remember one's elders by making a special effort to visit their graves, ashes or ancestral tablets. To make the visit even more meaningful, some time should be spent to remind the younger members of the family of the lives and contributions of their ancestors.

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