“What do you do to worship your ancestors?”

Today is not only Easter Sunday, but also Tomb Sweeping Festival (清明节 Qīngmíng jié, also called Qingming Festival) – a Chinese holiday where people visit their ancestor’s graves. We don’t celebrate Tomb Sweeping Festival today, but we visited the grave of my husband’s grandfather a few months back.

It’s November, 2014. My husband, I and baby stay at Gugu’s place in the countryside of Jilin province. One early morning, I, my husband, my father-in-law and my husband’s aunt visit the grave of my husband’s grandfather (because of tradition, our baby son has to stay at home. Read more about it here). The grave is located on a little hill. We have to cross a few fields to get there.

countryside in jilin

After burning Joss paper, we go back. On the way back, my husband’s aunt asks:
“Do you also burn paper money for your ancestors in Austria?”
“No, we don’t have this tradition.”
“What do you do to worship your ancestors?”
“We don’t worship our ancestors in the Chinese sense. We usually put flowers on the graves of our beloved ones.”

Do you have any customs for visiting a beloved person’s grave? Do you celebrate Tomb Sweeping Festival? I’d love to read your stories.

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Hi, I'm Ruth, welcome to China Elevator Stories! I have been living in Kunming and Shenzhen in the past and am now staying in Northeast China with my Chinese husband and our baby and toddler son. Join us on our journey bridging worlds!

5 comments

  1. My husband’s family left China in 1949. When we visited for the first time in 1983, the only thing my father-in-law asked of us was that we look for his parents graves. It wasn’t easy, but we found his father’s grave. His mother died during the war with Japan, and her grave was probably destroyed.

  2. We went to the countryside today, where C.’s great grandfather is buried. It was raning cats and dogs so we couldn’t go to the actual grave because there was a lot of mud, but we had lunch with the relatives who still live there. I have celebrated Qingming with C.’s family 3 years already, it has always been very interesting.

    In Spain it is like in Austria, we only put flowers in the grave. I find it amazing when Chinese people burn paper offerings in the form of houses, laptops, iphones, reading glasses… the deceased won’t be missing anything in the afterlife 😀

  3. As I am from Germany and Finland I am also used to just bring flowers to the graves and my wife of course is used to the Chinese tradition you explain already. However she is not very thorough with it as she hasn’t even visited her grandmothers grave yet who died in 2010!

    • pt

      I think in Chinese (Asian) tradition, married women only needs to go to tomb sweeping for the family that she married into.

  4. I’m Mexico we have Dia de Los Muertos. It is more like a celebration of the loved ones who have passed. We built altars in remembrance of them with their favorite food and items. It is divided into two days. On November 1st is when the children’s souls return and November 2nd the adult’s souls join in. Sometimes small towns or villages like to get together and eat outside of the cemetery to feel close to family and share the food with the dead.

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