08 April 2013

Ching Ming Checklist

The Ching Ming Festival (All Souls' Day for the Chinese) has just concluded.

This year was the first time that I had to play a major role in preparing for this festival which my husband's family observes strictly every year.

As I understand it, for the last 30 years, the eldest daughter-in-law of my husband's Uncle had somehow been burdened with the task of buying all the materials necessary for the ritual as well as preparing food sufficient to feed the horde (about 30 + people) after the ceremony.

Which means that it was the grand-daughter-in-law (my generation) who led the ceremony and not the daughters-in-law, who are still surviving. I had asked my husband why the daughter-in-law was not doing anything (his mom) as it should be the sons and their wives leading the ceremony and not the grandchildren. Of course, my husband has no idea why!  

Anyway, the grand-daughter-in-law finally wanted to retire from this office she has been holding, or at least take a sabbatical. Fair enough, I thought. After all, there are other sons and grandsons who should also help out.

Therefore, the task got handed to my father-in-law's branch of the family this year, and more specifically to me. Again, I do not understand why my MIL wants to have nothing to do with the whole affair (she is after all, the DIL to the ancestors we are conducting the ceremony for). Contrary to her usual know-it-all stance, for Ching Ming, she had no knowledge, no experience and no advice to dispense. In fact, she didn't even turn up on the day the whole family went for the Ching Ming ceremony, citing housework!

I myself have absolutely no knowledge of Chinese traditional ancestral worship, the ritual, the materials required etc. From memory and from many discussions with the "sifu", my cousin-in-law, I came up with this list which will now serve as the guiding document for future preparations.

For those of you equally in the dark about Ching Ming preparations, I hope this list helps you. We are a Cantonese family, so the materials might differ (I don't know!) among the different dialects.

  1. Roast pig (above 30 katis in weight)
  2. Notes, gold paper and hell money(lots of it) 
  3. Joss sticks (big/small) (many)
  4. Candles (big/small) (many)
  5. Prayer cups, prayer plates
  6. Alcohol for offering
  7. Chinese tea 1.5 litre
  8. Roasted whole chicken x 1
  9. Roasted whole duck x 1 
  10. Fatt Ko small x 10 
  11. Ang ku x 10 
  12. Chin Dui x 10 
  13. Char siu pau x 20 
  14. Egg tarts (dan tart) x 20 
  15. Ham Yuk Chung  x 10 
  16. Kan Sui Chung  x 10
  17. Green apples x 20
  18. Oranges x 20
  19. Pineapple x 1
  20. Banana x1 bunch
  21. Lettuce for prayer  x 1 bunch
  22. Duck eggs ( hard boiled, shell intact ) x 5
  23. Cuttlefish (whole) x 1
  24. Fried noodles and fried vermicelli (vegetarian) – 2 kgs each (to feed the human horde)
  25. Chilly sauce x2
  26. Red firecrackers - 1 or 2 lengths
  27. Bunch of flowers
  28. Disposable plates, tissues, chopsticks, paper napkins, plastic bags (food/trash), rubber bands
  29. Packet Drinks – 2 cartons (24 x2) (for the humans)
  30. Mineral Water – 2 cartons (24 x2) (for the humans)
  31. Big chopping knife, chopping board 
  32. Old newspapers, lighter, matches 
    The ceremony
  • “Chai” foodstuff followed by meats to be arranged in front of main tombstone
  • 3 cups tea, 3 cups alcohol, 3 pairs chopsticks each at main tombstone and side headstone
  • Side headstone - place fruits and fatt ko
  • Place 3 joss sticks alternate with candles all around tomb
  • Spread prayer paper onto tomb
  • Offer 3 joss sticks for each neighbouring tombstone (sign of respect and neighbourliness)
  • Special stack of prayer paper to be placed on headstone
  • Pair of big candles and 3 big joss sticks for main tomb
  • Smaller pair of candles and 3 smaller joss sticks for side headstone
  • Family, generation by generation, offer joss sticks and bow. Proceed to offer tea and alcohol. Also, may lift up plates of food offered (as a sign to invite departed ancestors to eat)
  • Elder of each family-branch to burn and offer specially folded stack of prayer papers, then to place burning papers into larger pile of prayer papers
  • Wait for all prayer papers to be burnt


  1. Hi there,

    We are in the final stages of occupying a rented house in Taman Sin Lok. Small house, for a small family. Just waiting for the landlord to do some touch-ups.

    Anyway, where is a good recommended place to get house-hold furniture's?

    Which IKEA can deliver to Ipoh, can they?

    Best Regards

  2. Hi Huba Huba.

    Glad to hear things are going smoothly for you. Hmmm, where is Taman Sin Lok? How much is the rental?

    We got most of our furniture from Lorenzo on Jalan Yang Kalsom. Other biggish places for furniture are Lazio on Jalan Kampar, Fella Design on Tiger Lane nearer the big traffic light intersection with Jalan Gopeng. There are also some show rooms near the roundabout entering town and coming out of town. If you like teak wood, I hear some people like Teak Onn (hope I got the spelling right) in Simee near the Paragon hotel.

    Yeah man! I wish IKEA would deliver to Ipoh. Did you try asking them? hee hee hee...

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. RM500 for a 1 tonne IKEA lorry?

    Hmmm, I guess it's not a very huge lorry so if you buy a fair amount of stuff, you would be able to fill it up. Never mind, if cannot fill up, let me know then I can "tumpang" some stuff too!!