Qing ming jie 清明節 is also known as tomb sweeping day. This year qing ming jie falls on the 5th of April (Monday).

It’s one of the important festivals still observed by many overseas Chinese. (According to Wiki, qing ming was practiced as far back as 2500 years ago. The holiday was repelled by the communist regime in 1949 but it was reinstated only in 2008). Thus, as an overseas Chinese (like myself a 5th generation Sarawakian-Chinese), it is a festival of remembering, honouring our ancestors and reviving the memory of one’s root.

The ritual usually starts early in the morning with prayers and paying respect to their ancestors (linking back to China) on the family altar. Then follow by a visit to the graveyard of close relation who died in the country.

At the graveyard, burning of joss paper accessories, joss-sticks and offering of food and drinks are made to the deceased.

Since early times, sau-mu (carrying out the duties of ancestor worship) is done in accordance with five set ‘rules of custom’.

The first to be honoured must be the Ho Thoo Sin (the guardian-god of the graveyard, who has a tablet for him on the left side of the grave).

Second, before worshipping, the grave or tomb must be cleaned up and its immediate surroundings cleared of weeds and wild grass.

Third, if the inscriptions on the grave-stone are faded, they must be restored with fresh paint (red or black).

Fourth, the offerings are laid before the grave on the cemented tomb area.

Lastly, light up the candles and joss-sticks and read the obituaries (if available). Menfolk (led by the head of the family) must worship first. They kneel and kow-tow, lighted joss-sticks in hands, followed by the womenfolk. Everything must be done solemnly and with strict decorum. Men must always take precedence over women.

When they pour out the wine and tea into small cups which they have brought along, they do so with devotion, inviting their ancestors to join them. They burn the joss-paper and the pour the remaining wine and tea on the grave or tomb. Finally, they let off a few packets of fire-crackers.

Extracted from a book by:

Lai Kuan Fook “The Hennesy Book of Chinese Festivals”

Above: A pictorial extracted from “Origins of Chinese People and Customs” by Asiapac.

The willow branches help to ward off the evil spirits that wander around on qing ming.

Below: These are only some of the ever-increasing joss paper accessories we can find in the market – from washing machines to aircon to jewelry.

Pssst… notice the brand on the aircon??