Devoted families go to great heights to honour dead

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2006, 12:00am

The fifth-hottest Ching Ming fails to deter crowds

Hundreds of thousands of grave sweepers trudged up hillsides in unseasonal heat yesterday to pay respect to their ancestors over the Ching Ming Festival.

Worshippers mopped away the sweat as they hiked to the tombs of their loved ones, as the mercury climbed to 28.2 degrees Celsius - the fifth-hottest Ching Ming on record and the hottest since 2002.

Among those who made the trek up the notoriously steep Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery was 80-year-old Mrs Tsang.

'I could not sleep a few days before the festival,' she said. 'I was worried that I could not make it to the top, as the tracks are so hilly. The weather is so hot today, and I felt dizzy after walking for a while.

'It's really killing me,' she said, pausing from her hour-long climb.

Some families loaded offerings, food and drinks onto trolleys to cart them up the hill.

Others, like members of the four generations of the Chan family, nominated the strongest to bear the burden when they visited the Chinese Permanent Cemetery in Chai Wan.

'It is indeed hot this year and it is tough to climb uphill, but when I think of the hardship my father went through when he worked so hard to feed us all, I feel fine,' Mr Chan said. The Chans spent more than $1,000 to buy offerings and food for a family picnic including lobsters, crabs, a roasted pig, a chicken and fruits and drinks.

'The Ching Ming Festival is a family gathering for the living and the dead. The only thing that annoys us today is the traffic arrangements. We saw taxis driving along some roads which should be blocked,' he said.

While some enjoyed good food and reunions with their loved ones, others went to Gallant Garden in Wo Hop Shek to visit the graves of killed police officer Tsang Kwok-hang on the first Ching Ming Festival since his burial on Tuesday.

'Mr Tsang's spirit and things he did make me realise that I should not give up when I have difficulties,' a student said.

A family held a prayer session at Tsang's grave and praised the constable as an excellent officer.

'It is our honour to have him as one of the civil servants who devoted his life to his work. I will pray for him and his little son and may God bless his family,' said one of the grave sweepers who visited the officer's tomb.

There was the usual hill fires as the burning of offerings ignited nearby vegetation.

By 6pm, 31 hill fires had been reported - three quarters of them in the New Territories. The hill fires at Kai Shan in Yuen Long, Sha Kok Mei in Sai Kung and Hung Shing Ye on Lamma Island were among the worst, and required assistance from the Government Flying Services firefighters.

All fires had been put out last night and there were no reports of injuries. There were 55 hill fires on Ching Ming last year.