Tuesday, April 5, 2016

QingMing in Bukit Brown (26 March 2016)

Last month I joined a tour conducted by the Brownies to Bukit Brown again. It had been quite some time I last visited Bukit Brown. This was the first time ever since the old cemetery access was not available. From the Bukit Brown website, I noted there were actually 2 entrances to the cemetery. That day the meeting point was at a platform after passing through Lorong Halwa.

(credit: Bukit Brown)

As Qingming (in fact, the actual day was yesterday according to Chinese calendar) was around the corner and the cemetery is bustling with activity again.  I joined the tour because I wanted to have a close-up look of families visiting the graves of their ancestors with offerings, and tombkeepers busy themselves with sprucing up graves ahead of the descendants' visits. I have never been to a cemetery during Qing Ming period.

Upon arrival from the bus, immediately I smelt smoke, which reminds me of the haze we had last year. This smell is pretty common especially when joss papers and offerings are burnt. Upon navigating around, I saw smoke spiraling from one spot near the bridge over Lornie Road. Someone had already paid a visit to their ancestor.

Besides visiting a new grave cluster, the family of Lim Chong Pang, I learnt something new on this trip.
Cars and vehicles were slowly getting into the cemetery. This road is pretty narrow. There was a jam right ahead.
Quite a number of families were seen in the cemetery that day.

2 Earth Deities?
Offerings to the ancestors, includes food, joss sticks and candles. Before these were done, the descendants have to pray to the Earth deity. This is located on either side of the tomb. (see the pair of candles on the side) Joss papers are burnt last.
I learnt, there are male and female  Earth deities (indicated by the arrow). Almost every tomb has a Earth Deity. (either the male or the female)

The male Earth Deity
The female Earth Deity
Mass Grave?
During the Japanese Occupation, it was told that there was mass grave for civilian bodies near this stream.  I don't think these bodies could survived under such a condition, unlike the those on the hills.
Busy Tomb keepers 

This period of time is the busiest time for the tomb keepers. The services they offer are quite a handful. However, during this period, they would be offering cleaning or grass cutting services before the descendants come to pay their ancestors a visit. There are families who engage their services to maintain the tombs throughout the year for a fee.

Tomb keepers in action
One of the permanent makeshift tent for the tomb keepers.
This morning, it was the first time I spotted lots of living things besides the horses. Below are just some. One of the group member pointed out there are curry leaves too!

Red dragonfly
Black butterfly
The appearance of horses made some children squealed in delight

Flowers such as chrysanthemum is being offered

A more elaborated offering.

Orchid and drinks as offering. 5 colour paper on the graves are not meant to be burnt.
过 路钱,a small stack of beige rectangular shaped paper with three holes punched onto them.are being thrown around too. It is believed to be the ‘money’ used by the deceased when they travel from places to places in the underworld. Sometimes, these were scattered on the trees. These are meant for the wandering spirits. I forgot to ask why these aren't burnt.
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  1. Fascinating. Your post is so informative. I learned a good deal.
    Thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/04/this-is-what-hope-looks-like.html

    1. Hi Sue, thanks for commenting! Glad you find it informative. I try to make the information bite size so that it is easier to digest. A lot more can be learnt on the tour itself.

  2. Actually I read this post few days before,but couldn't share my thoughts at that time.Thanks for sharing this very informative and interesting post.I've seen josticks and other offerings in Singapore,but I really didn't know the practices in details.It is fascinating and photos are beautiful too...

    1. Thanks Amila for sharing your thoughts! Yes. I am very interested in customs and practices. Not just those of the Chinese but also those of other races and religion. If I get the chance, I would join in tours to learn more. Although I am a Chinese but some of these practices are dying with time, hence, there is plenty to learn for me too!


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