Visiting the graves of our ancestors during Qing Ming is an age old Chinese tradition. Apparent it goes back 2000 years to the Han dynasty.
Qing Ming means Clear Brightness in Chinese. In the Chinese solar calendar the season of spring is further sub-divided into 6 divisions of approx 14 days each and it is called the Knots and Qi. Qing Ming is one of sub-season within and normally falls on the 5th or 6th of April.
It is also a period when the days are longer than the nights and is considered to be most ‘yang’. Hence the name Clear Brightness!
The visit need not be made on the first day of Qing Ming. Any time plus or minus 30 days is fine although most people prefer to do it on the weekends immediately prior or after (that is if Qing Ming do not fall on a weekend).
Upon reaching the cemetery, it is customary to visit the ‘Da Bo Gong’ to offer your prayers. The ‘Da Bo Gong’ is like the head deity that looks after the cemetery. A more accurate but less used name is ‘Tu Di Gong’ or ‘Deity of the Earth’. Every cemetery or memorial park has one.
What if you do not offer prayers to ‘Da Bo Gong’ first? It has been rumoured that you may not be able to find your ancestors grave! Some even say that you may lose out in society for not knowing how to shoe respect to the elders.
Upon reaching your ancestor grave, you must first offer prayers to the ‘Hou Tu’. The ‘Hou Tu’ is the deity that looks after the grave and you should offer at least some rice cakes, fruits, wine and tea. Poultry is good too.
The offering of prayers to the ancestors must be done based on seniority. It is unfair but married daughters are ranked the lowest and they can offer prayers only after everyone else has done so.
There is no hard and fast rule on how long you should stay at the site. Most people spend between 30 minutes and an hour.
The cemetery is a place where the Yin energy is very strong. Therefore it is a good idea to wear an auspicious items such as jade or crystals to help ward off such energy. It is also a good idea to wear some light or bright coloured clothes that is full of yang energy to counter the yin energy of the cemetery. Black which is extremely yin is definitely out!
On the way to your ancestor’s grave, you should refrain from stepping on the other graves. If it is unavoidable, quietly ask for forgiveness before doing so.
While at the grave-site, do not talk too loudly and refrain from using foul language. Also be wary of the comments that you make about your ancestor and those of the neighbouring grave. Watch out for the children especially. Do not allow them to play or run around the grave-site or step on the tomb.
By the way, pregnant women should not visit participate in Qing Ming. The ancient Chinese believe that the extreme yin energies there can affect the unborn child.
It is customary to take a bath immediately after returning home is water soaked in pomelo leaves. It is believed that Pomelo is very yang and can wash off any yin energies that you may absorb from the cemetery!