Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life – A time to pay respect

The Chinese seem pretty convinced that what comes to us after life is more life, just like this life, only ghostlier.

They are keen both on ancestor worship, and on the Confucian idea of filial piety, roughly the parent-friendly notion that children owe unquestioning gratitude to their parents. These two ideas, ancestor worship and filial piety, falls on the day known as Qing Ming. It's got such a pretty name because it falls in spring, 107 days after the winter solstice, and 15 days after the spring solstice, usually around April 5th by the western calendar on which the Chinese visit the tombs of their ancestors to remember the dead; a time for the living to pay their respects to those family members who have preceded them into whatever it is, if anything at all, that comes to us after life.

On Qing Ming, they weed and sweep the tombs of their ancestors, pray to the dead, make graveside offerings of food, drink, flowers, and incense for the ancestors' ghostly pleasure, burn representations of bank notes, and paper images of houses, cars, servants, treasure chests to ensure the dead have all they need in the Other World.

The ancestors are given time to "eat" the food offerings, then the living family members gets a chance to tuck in. Qing Ming is also an occasion of having a picnic with the dead and it's just the right time for people to go outside and relax, indulge themselves in the blue sky, green trees, breezy grass and beautiful flowers.

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