Personal touch of traditional tomb sweeping in Hong Kong lacking in online memorials

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 11:00pm

I am writing to express my concern about the growing trend of using substitutes to make offerings to ancestors instead of visiting the graves in person. There are currently two main types of substitutes in the market : online memorials and hiring people to help sweep the tombs of one’s forebears.

In the plus side, online memorials can solve many problems faced by people visiting graves in person. First, it is more convenient. People can worship their ancestors regardless of time and distance. It is very useful for those who have immigrated, given the high cost of returning to make offerings.

Second, it causes less damage to the environment. Traditional worshipping requires people to burn paper offerings and incense, which pose a higher fire risk. Online memorials could thus be the safer choice with their “smoke-free worship”.

However, we cannot ignore the drawbacks. First, this goes against traditional Chinese cultural values that require people to pay careful attention to the funerary rites of ancestors. As the online method allows people to worship at home, it can seem too easy and as failing to show proper respect to the departed.

Second, it may dilute the closeness between family members. The traditional way of worshipping required all descendants to gather together, but these substitutes destroy the opportunity for such gatherings, giving people the option of worshipping independently. Therefore, some argue that the traditional way of worshipping should be preserved.

As for me, although the new ways of making offerings to ancestors are very convenient and environmentally friendly, I will still follow tradition. This is because such worship shows deeper respect towards ancestors and I don’t think just taking one day out of the year to go sweeping tombs is a hard thing.

Joyce Li Hei-ying, Yau Yat Chuen