Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Qing Ming Festival...

Festival is around the corner. It falls on the Chinese Lunar 3rd Month. This year it falls on 27th March 2009. To the Chinese, this is All Souls Day. Family with ancestors will gathered at temples to pray for the departed. Children will visit ancestors' graves in the cemeteries. Others will visit temples where ancestors’ tablets and ashes are kept.

This is also a picnic day as families will bring with them lots of food, drinks, incense papers, incense, paper monies, paper clothes and what they believe the deceased will like. Many wondered whether the dead will receive or use such paper items burnt for their benefit. To me, it is Chinese Culture. It is to show filial piety to departed parents and ancestors. They are our roots and without them we are not here today. It is also family gathering day as all members, relatives from far and near will surely make it to "Sweep the Grave".

Children whose parents are buried will bring with them red/ gold paint to touch up the words on the tombstone if the colors faded. This is possible because of the rain, shine and the work of the elements will also erode the mud around the grave. Feng Shui believes that ancestor's grave must be in good conditions because it reflects the future of the living generations. So people will patch up holes with mud, laid out food and drinks and at the same time have a feast at the grave. The most important aspect is to ask for 4-digits lottery numbers. Of course some do strike it rich and they will say that their ancestors are blessing them with fortune.

My parents are cremated and their ashes and tablets were placed in a temple. When I booked the place for Dad, Mum said she wanted hers booked in advance and now both of them are together again side by side. I am not a superstitious Buddhist. I remember my parents and visit them as and when I wanted to. I do not wait for Qing Ming to do so. However on these 15 days, there are prayers and chanting by monks for the departed and people contributed to these activities to elevate ancestors to Pureland.

Normally after the prayers, families will leave behind some fruits, food and drinks on the grave. The remaining will be taken home for every one's consumption. My parents told me a story about a young boy who makes part time money during this festival by cutting overgrown grasses for graves when families of the departed pay them for it. These boys spent the whole day at the graveyard and they normally ate the food left behind on the grave. The law is that you can eat food that was left behind on the grave but you cannot make fun of it.

One day two boys after consuming some food were left with fruits on their hands. Instead of consuming them, they threw the fruits at each other like a Hit and Run game. As they ran along, they picked up more fruits from all the graves around and threw at each other. Of course they had fun. The not so good news was both of the boys fell sick. They were down with fever and doctors' medicines cannot bring it down. They were not able to neither stand up nor walk because they their limbs were wobbly. Parents were worried but they knew these boys were making extra monies cutting grasses for graves. The boys must have offended the 'spirits'. After checking the Almac, it truly indicated such happenings and both boys admitted that they took fruits and threw at each other. The boys’ family brought with them food, fruits, flowers, incense and incense papers and prayed to all these 'spirits' asking for their forgiveness. Say what you like, after praying, the boys were up and running again the next day. All fever and wobbly legs were gone.

My uncle was buried in one of the cemetery. Months before that, Mum dreamt about Uncle (Dad's eldest brother). Mum saw him looking up at the roof and water was leaking down. The hole was quite big. When Qing Ming came, we visited his grave and we saw a big hole by the side of the grave. The mud eroded creating the tomb curving in with a hole. Mum immediately recalled her dream. Dad quickly got the boys nearby to sell us mud to patch up the hole and filled up the curved-in and the grave looks like new again. Therefore, days like this are not to be taken lightly. Behaviors and respect have to be appropriate.

This year as usual, we have joined a prayer session in a temple for this purpose. It is a marked of respect to Dad and Mum and the Wong Family ancestors. It is a duty and responsibility to one's parents even though they are no longer around. My parents live in my heart always!

Papa and Mum, I love you both....