The Clear and Bright Festival
The Clear and Bright Festival, also known more commonly as Ching Ming, is a day that people set out to sweep and dust the graves of their ancestors. They will also weed around the tombstones and repair any inscriptions that need work. It is a sign of respect to their elders. Many
participants will also leave offerings, such as a piece of fruit or wine as an offering to their ancestors. Many people will use public transportation that follows the routes of the cemetery sites.
The word ching literally translated means "pure, clean." The word ming means "brightness." When the two words are combined, thus comes the Clear and Bright Festival. It is held some time in April every leap year. It is interesting to note that the Japanese have a similar holiday in their country as well.
The Origin of the Holiday
Many believe that the holiday originated out of Ancestor Worship, which is the only true religion that comes from China. Other religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and others were brought in by other nations and adapted to the Chinese way of life and beliefs. While Confucianism and Taoism are Chinese-born practices, they are not solely religious, but have basis on philosophies of an un-religious nature as well. They are not considered true religion.
Incense and Imitation Money
The Chinese will light incense at their ancestors' gravesite, as well as burn imitation money. They burn the money in order to give it to their ancestors to spend in their afterlife. People will also burn other objects to offer to their ancestors as well. This is one part of the original festival that is still practiced in modern times.
Offerings and Rituals
Years ago families would set out an elaborate meal by the gravesite to offer to their ancestors. The meal might have consisted of steamed chicken, hard boiled eggs, cha shiu (barbecue pork), roast pork, and other delectable foods, including dessert. Then three sets of chopsticks, along with three cups of wine, were placed above the layout of food and situated close to the head of the tombstone.
The head of a household was responsible for beginning the day's events. Some men would set off fireworks to ward off evil spirits before the cleaning begins. Other men would start by bowing three times while holding a wine cup. He would then pour the wine out on the ground in front of the tombstone, and repeat this three times. Next, the rest of the family was invited to come and bow three times in front of the tombstone. They put their right fist cupped into their left hand when they bowed. The family then enjoyed the meal together right there at the gravesite. It was believed to bring good luck to eat food offered to their ancestors.
Today, many families have made this part of the festival obsolete. They generally just clean the gravesite, burn incense, and bring fresh flowers. Some families may still burn imitation money as well.
The Clear and Bright Festival is a time of respect to those who have passed from this life to the next. Most Chinese people are very certain that there is an afterlife, and that by taking care of their ancestors, they will have a happy afterlife, too.