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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Qingming Festival: Out of this world

The Chinese Qingming Festival serves as an annual reminder that death may simply be another form of life.

The official connection between Qingming and the honoring of ancestors began about 2,500 years ago.   At that time, some families were becoming more and more ostentatious about honoring their ancestors. 
Seeking to curb these extravagances, then-Emperor Xuanzong (seventh of the Tang Dynasty) declared that such graveside ceremonies should henceforth take place on Qingming.

Ancestor veneration continues to be an integral part of the Qingming Festival.  Honoring deceased parents and elders in this manner is seen as essential gratitude for their former (and even ongoing) support.  It remains the family’s responsibility to provide for those members who have gone beyond Earth’s limits.

Families do this in a number of ways.  Feng Shui often plays an important role in determining where graves will be located.  It is believed that spirits can remain unsettled without a proper flow of chi around the sites.  Ancestral tablets are placed upon home altars, and incense is lit daily.  Bi-monthly offerings (such as food and “spirit money”) are given.  “Spirit money” is made up of symbolic (often paper) replicas of cash, credit, and/or possessions.  These offerings are meant for the ancestors’ use in the afterlife.

On Qingming (the 15th day from the Spring equinox), families make special trips to the graves in order to
tidy up (sweep clean) the sites, offer food and drink, and give “spirit money.”  The family members then pray before the ancestors.  Wikipedia reports:  The core belief of ancestor veneration is that there is a  continued existence after death.


Copyright April 5, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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