Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tomb-Sweeping Day

Image source.

Today, April 5, is 清明节 (qīng míng jié), Tomb-Sweeping Day, in China.

On Tomb-Sweeping Day, people visit the graves of their ancestors, bringing flowers, fruit, and other food. They burn fake money for them, and sometimes other fake stuff- paper houses and cars and whatever else their ancestors might need in heaven. Because when you burn it, it goes to heaven. (Or maybe we should call it "the other world" instead of "heaven"- it isn't quite the same as the western idea of heaven.)

It's a serious day, about respecting one's ancestors.

Image source.

While asking people to tell me about Tomb-Sweeping Festival, I realized that my ideas about religion in China were totally wrong. I thought, you know, China is officially an atheist country. I thought that meant most Chinese people were atheists like the atheist friends I have in the US- they believe there is no god and no spiritual anything and no heaven and when you die you're just dead.

And I was really confused about Tomb-Sweeping Day because it sounds to me like a religious holiday.

But now I realize, although most Chinese people don't follow a specific religion and don't do religious practices, they believe in stuff like a god or heaven or ghosts. (And a ton of superstitions.) They're "not religious," but not like my friends in the US who are not religious.

And now all those times I've heard little comments about God here in China suddenly make sense.

I'm pretty happy about this, actually, because it means they're more similar to me than I thought. And I can talk to people about those shared beliefs. For example, in conversations about Tomb-Sweeping Day, I've mentioned that I also believe people go to heaven when they die, but I think heaven is super-nice and they don't need us to send them anything. And my friends agreed, yeah heaven should be super-nice! But we send stuff to them to show that we care about them.

One last thing: I've heard Christians say that Chinese people worship their ancestors and therefore it's BAD. But this holiday sounds more like respecting and remembering. Yeah, it involves bowing down (because that's a way to show respect in China), but it doesn't seem to me like it's "worship." Either way, how about we learn about it and why it's meaningful to Chinese people rather than just saying IT'S BAD?

Image source.

1 comment:

  1. That was very interesting-- thanks!