Dead but not Forgotten in China

Yesterday was Qing Ming Jie, which is called the Grave Sweeping Festival in English. The translated name gives no indication to the meaning of the Chinese words, which has more to do with a certain point on the lunar calendar, but it does help outsiders get the jist of the occasion.

All across China, or for the vast majority that falls under the influence of thousands and thousands of years of tradition and practice, families and individuals  do their best to go to the graves of their ancestors. The name Grave Sweeping Festival comes from the activities of the visitors to the cemeteries, which focus on maintenence of and care for the tomb, and making sure the spirits of the great grandfather and great-great grandfathers are happy with the condition of their earthly monument.

As it is in every place that I have been in South East Asia, which is home to such a rich abundance of diversity and such long histories, one of the more interesting things to observe (and participate in) is the way that relatively new religious and social practices merge with, change with and in turn change traditions that carry over from the thousands of years of civilizations and cultural mixing. For example, the province of Yunnan has a very large Islamic population. As it was in Java, Indonesia, the Islamic faith has been successful because it has found a way to coexist with the cultures it is adopted by. Many of the Muslims visited the graves of their ancestors on Qing Ming Jie, though certainly with a special approach. The diversity of this part of China is one of the many reasons that I tried not to have too many expectations or pre-determined conceptions of my new-temporary home – most of them would have been way off…

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