Archive for July 23rd, 2007

Chinese ancestor grave ritual

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

In Chinese culture, there is an emphasis on ancestor worship. There is a national holiday in China where everyone must perform a ritual at the grave sites of their ancestors (Qing Ming which takes place around April 4th). There are also other important days in which one must perform these rituals.

Recently, I went with my mother to the cemetary where my paternal grandmother is buried. I hadn’t gone with my mother to the cementary in a long time and thought to go this time where I helped her with the ritual for the ancestor.

At the grave site, we first cleaned up the area around the headstone. Since the headstone was not upright but put into the ground, the grass can grow over it. Thus, it is important to trim the grass around the headstone and ensure that the ancestor’s name is completely visible. Incense and flowers are placed in front of the headstone. In front of the incense and flowers, is a tray holding three small libation bowls each with a set of chopsticks and a big bowl of food. The bowl of food consists of a large portion of cooked pork, two eggs cut in halves, three pieces of traditional Chinese sponge cake, three pieces of Chinese dough stuffed with sweet bean paste, and three pieces of Chinese dough stuffed with a mixture of ground pork and vegetables. To the right of this setup near the headstone is a cauldron for burning “hell money”. After some time, rice wine is poured into the three libation bowls. Then paper with gold foil (not sure what these are called, may be symbolic for gold) and “hell money” is burned. This is burned so that the ancestor has money to pay off demons in the otherworld. After burning the gold paper and hell money, some time is spent quietly with the ancestor at the grave site. Then finally, before packing up, one must bow to the ancestor’s grave three times with hands held together in front. After everyone has bowed, only then can you pack up. The food laid out for the ritual may then be taken home to eat.

Cassandrah
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