Tomb Sweeping Day in China

The Qingming festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, takes place today. It is a centuries’ old festival held to remember the deceased.

As the first Qingming since the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake, this year’s festival holds a sharper and more painful significance for mourners in quake-stricken areas. From Xinhua:

Life forever changed for Zhu Xiuhua after her husband was buried under the county’s vegetable market.

[...]Facing the debris of the market, she drew a circle on the ground with a stick and wrote the name of her husband.

“There were too many people who died in the quake. I am afraid he [won't be able to] find the money I gave him,” she wept.

Zhu then lit a candle and placed it alongside the pork she had cooked and set by the debris. Pork, was her husband’s favorite food. She then burned ghost money- one sheet after another, as an offering to help the dead in afterlife.

More people have taken to perform online memorials in addition to, or even supplanting, traditional practices. Also from Xinhua:

Xiyuanpiaoxue (drifting snow in the western yard) released an article in her blog Saturday, recalling some tomb-sweeping stories about her family since 2002, when his grandfather died.

The blogger said family members did not stop visiting the tombs of their late relatives over the past years until this year, when they set up the mourning blog.

[...]The Central Civilization Office of the Communist Party of China also launched a website on March 26 to encourage people to pay respects to fallen revolutionary heroes online.

The website, www.wenming.cn/wmdjr/qm.htm, have received more than 3 million visitors as of Saturday and 220,000 of them left comments.

Other generational differences are growing more stark. From the Times of India:

“I am here to pay respect to my parents. But the younger generation is no more keen about such traditions,” Zhang Qing, 72, who had traveled 90 kms to a Beijing cemetery told TNN, while repainting the names of his parents on old tombstones.

Indeed, most visitors to the tombs in Beijing were either the elderly or middle-aged people. There were very few young people to be seen apart from some children accompanying grandparents. The young mostly pay their respects by burning paper money in street corners near their houses instead of taking the trouble of visiting cemeteries.

[...]Thousands of young people wrote or read complained voiced over the Internet about the high cost of maintaining tombs and traditions related to funerals. Many ranted against what they called malpractises of the funeral industry, which was charging abnormal sums for flower wreaths and things like urns that are used at the tombs.

April 4, 2009 8:23 PM
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