Monday, April 6, 2009

Another Festival...

...Qing Ming Jie

Yesterday (April 5) was Qing Ming Jie (清明节), or Tomb Sweeping Festival in China. It can be compared to Memorial Day in the US or Toussaint in France. It is an opportunity for the Chinese to remember and honor their ancestors by visiting their grave sites. Young and old pray before their ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss/incense) paper accessories to the ancestors. The rites are very important to most Chinese. Following folk religion, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and have more children.

Today, Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. In addition to tending the graves of the ancestors, Chinese traditionally used this day to send the deceased things they might need in the afterlife. Money is of course the main thing. But since no one wants to actually burn real money, there is special money that is sold in the days preceding the festival. Apparently in modern times, it’s not just money that is sent, but other things the ancestors might need as well, such as paper cars, paper houses, etc. All these things are burned on the streets in the evening.

Spirit money