This year's QingMing Festival, sometimes referred to as the Grave Sweeping Festival, has just taken place. Few foreigners know much about it, and this is a good opportunity to look into a traditional Chinese holiday which has some important spiritual aspects.
If we boiled QingMing down to its most fundamental meaning, it is a time to pay respect to ancestors. Families will visit graves of the ancestors (often located on a hill-face which has good "feng shui"), clean up the grass and brush, burn incense to the ancestors, burn gifts of fake money, and give gifts of food. The food is then distributed among the family (and any families that are nearby at their ancestors' graves doing the same) and eaten. So, the holiday ends up having a sort of picnic feeling.
This is no picnic, though. "We give food and money to our ancestors for them to use in the afterlife, and the ancestor gives it back to us. See, our family has had a good year, so obviously our ancestor is blessing us with much money," said one Dong man celebrating QingMing.
It is deeply rooted in spirit worship as well. At times, incense and gifts are burnt for the ancestors, and sometimes for the spirits of the area around the grave. Really, few people actually think about it: which incense is for whom, what set of food is for whom, or what any of this really means. It is tradition; it must be done.
This QingMing holiday, let us pray that some of the Dong people will question what QingMing really means. May they question if this is really true or not. May they begin a journey seeking for the one and only Truth.