Apr 11, 2017

14 Cheng Beng : It's Tomb-Sweeping Day

Cheng Beng aka Tomb-Sweeping Day is still largely practiced by Malaysians of Chinese descent. We were in Penang the weekend before, Hubs to carry out his filial duty and me to take photographs of the event to be shared in a private online album that holds our fondest memories as a family. It's our way of connecting to relatives living far away.

Cleaning The Grave on Tomb-Sweeping Day

The rainy weather made it a 6-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur to the island. A Saturday. I'm happy we didn't have to deal with exhaustive traffic jams too - the flow was pretty good. We stopped at several RnRs along the North-South Expressway to stretch our legs and usually take short naps in the car before continuing but not this time; Hubs was tied up with customer queries and was busy following up with staff at various work sites on the to-dos. I admire him for his toughness and hardworking nature. It seemed ironic that he was born in the Year of the Pig. Just saying, with a lol and no seriousness.

We woke up in the wee hours that Sunday, showered and made our way to the cemetery with the rest of the family. 6am in, we were the first car to arrive. Although the sun had yet to rise, the morning wasn't as chilly as I'd anticipated it to be. It would have been eerie to be here at this time - with trees in utter blackness looming over us and rows of shadowed tombstones stretching across the dark hill. Thriller, anyone? But I felt only excitement as I looked forward to seeing crowds that would soon be spread across the area fulfilling their Cheng Beng duties. 

Honoring Deceased Family Members With Food and Material Offerings

We were waiting for another relative to arrive. They were delayed as they had to collect roasted meats from another location before coming over. Soon, the morning bird started to call out signaling that it was almost 7am, "Ko-oohH!, Ko-oohH!" it went, louder than the morning alarm on my clock, as though it was using a megaphone. "What bird is that? " With a little googling, I discovered that the cry is from an Asian Koel.

We made our way to the tombstone of our ancestor after everyone had arrived, carrying bags of food offerings, joss sticks, spirit money and paper replicas of material items like clothes, shoes and a car. The grave was already clean - we'd paid the caretakers of the cemetery to keep the grass neat and green too.

Grandpa Needs A Car Up There

First thing up was displaying the food, tea and joss sticks in front of the stone. Then, we wait for the ancestors to eat whilst each relative kneeled and offered a short prayer. The rest proceeded with planting colourful flags, placing joss paper and burning joss sticks on the grave. This year, coins were tossed in too. A male relative brought a small, cute square radio along for music adding good vibes to the already vibrant scene. You could say that there was a little party going on at our place.

Food Offering - The Ancestors Eat

Roast Meats For Cheng Beng

Joss paper, spirit money aka hell money and paper material items were burnt in a huge pile. We waited until everything was gone. The cemetery was alive with people honoring their ancestors by then. I noticed a group far away enthusiastically tossing joss paper into the air - it was the first time I had seen this done. Each family has their own Cheng Beng practices.

Burning of Spirit Money and Paper Replicas of Material Goods

Finally, we tossed a coin to determine if the ancestors are done with their meal before packing the food back into containers to be brought home.

QingMing Festival - Colourful Flags on a Grave

A More Toned Down Way of Honoring the Deceased At Another Grave

The food was later distributed amongst family members. We headed back to the capital the next morning.

14 comments:

  1. Wow! Thanks to Sharon I get the whole idea of Cheng Beng. I have heard about this a lot but never get to know so details like this. Its a unique culture and good to know. By the way...that car is awesome!

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    1. Kakaka ..the car comes with a driver - now grandpa can go sightseeing ;)

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  2. Each family has their own Cheng Beng practices. In a way, its an opportunity for the family members to get together.

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    1. Yes, you are right, Nancy. It makes a good bonding session.

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  3. Usually, during Qing Ming, i go my father there, my grandparents, my auntie will go temple pray....

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    1. Big hugs, Sharon .. so sorry to hear. I still miss my loved ones, the ones who have departed, even after years.

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  4. Thanks for sharing. I had my first ching ming this year. Never followed my parents before so this was my first. With my hubby's family. We visited his grandfather's tomb.

    Everyone woke up before 5am and we had to walk about 5 minutes up the hill to the tomb. Kids no complaint other than tired legs. Haha.

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    1. What a nice experience. We woke up as early, Rose ;) Much cooler and more peaceful.

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  5. What a great event, Sharon! And the food looks delicious, especially the roasts!

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    1. We went all out with the food ;) It's a fascinating cultural event.

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  6. Such a colourful post, Sharon! I've never been to one actually, so it's real interesting for me......... xoxo

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    1. Although I've been going several years now, Shirley, it still excites me :D xx

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  7. you so good
    I dun follow my dad to go tomb sweeping as it is hot and tiring nowsaday

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    Replies
    1. We go really early to avoid the heat, before sun-up! ^.^

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