Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hong Kong: Ching Ming festival

(click on photo to enlarge)

Fifth of April is Ching Ming festival. Ching Ming is also known (in English) as Grave Sweeping Day, and it's a public holiday.

But before the grave comes the funeral service. On a little island in the South China Sea such a service is usually held in the open-to-the-elements funeral parlour in 'funeral square'. The square in reality is a rectangle. And this rectangular space has good feng shui, backed by a small hill and overlooking an unimpeded view of the sea.

Even in death life goes on. As well as the funeral parlour, there is a video games centre, pet shop, and three restaurants with alfresco dining in the square. So one can watch a funeral service and dine in the open air at the same time. Cool, eh?

And for funeral participants (and occasional restaurant watchers) the funeral services come and go in a variety of styles: ancestral, Christian, Taoist. Often what occurs seems to be a mix melded from two or more traditions -- all the better to hedge one's bets in matters ethereal, celestial, spiritual.

Anyway, the photo above shows a mourner and some of the bamboo and paper replicas which will be burnt during this ancestral-Taoist funeral service. With a car, house, trunks full of goodies, the departed is assured creature comforts in the netherworld after a life which may have included assorted disadvantages and discomforts in this one.

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