Soul survivors

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2006, 12:00am

Ching Ming, the Chinese version of All Souls' Day, falls on April 5 this year. Ching means 'clear', while Ming implies 'bright'. Thus, during a clear and bright time - spring - the deceased are honoured and remembered. Filial duties to one's ancestors are carried out in the form of cleaning and sweeping their graves.

The concept of ancestral worship is derived from the belief the spirit survives after death and is aware of the behaviour and conduct of those left behind. It is thought if one's ancestors are respected and tended to by their descendants, they can extend their assistance and positive influence. Therefore, families go to their ancestors' cemeteries to pay their respects, tidy the graves, plant new bushes and trees and repaint the inscriptions on the tombstones or tablets. Offerings are also made, such as food, drinks, flowers and paper money, which is meant for use in the world beyond. Made from joss paper, they are burned at the graves.

It is vital to pray to the deceased with sincerity. Ancestors will not bestow their blessings on those who perform prayers casually and unwillingly. It is also unwise to take photographs at a cemetery or temple because this may offend the deceased.