Thursday, April 5, 2012

清明节 Tomb Sweeping Festival

Hello from China!

Last Wednesday, April 4, was Tomb Sweeping Day. This is an ancient holiday with roots in Chinese ancestral worship. It is believed that Chinese ancestors watch over their kin and guide them, blessing them and, when unhappy, cursing them. So every year the Chinese Tomb Sweeping Day takes place, where every family goes to their ancestral grave yard, cleans the tombs, lays flowers, and burns offerings.

These offerings are most often paper money, both new and old. The bags are old ingots, gold and silver Chinese money from days of old. They also have new paper money, caricatured versions of the renminbi.

I discovered to my dismay that Nanjing, being such a large city, does not have a graveyard in the sense that American cities do. Because the city is so big most families choose to have their family members cremated or taken back to their home town in the country to be buried. Because of this I wasn't able to get any pictures of the kind that I've seen on Tomb Sweeping Day: masses of Chinese families flooding into graveyards.

But I did get the chance to covertly snap some shots of offerings right outside my apartment. I tried not to be seen; I didn't want to seem callous to these families' traditions.

While to me it wasn't an especially meaningful holiday, it was nice to have a few days off (officially only Wednesday is the holiday, but in order to give people enough time to make it back to their hometowns, the government shifts the work week so we worked on the weekend and then had Monday and Tuesday off as well). Now to get back to business! It's also holy week, which is especially strange in China as there is absolutely no mention of it. I guess the commercialization of Easter hasn't quite made it over, although I have yet to make it to the fancy shopping malls, so we'll see! Love,

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