Sunday, April 3, 2011

Preserving Family Tradition: Celebrating Qing Ming in Muar

This weekend is Qing Ming Festival (清明节) for Chinese people around the world and I followed my husband's family to Muar to celebrate this with his big family.

Qing Ming Festival or mostly known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Ancestors Day is a traditional Chinese festival that apparently has been carried out since 2,500 years ago. During this festival, which usually falls in early April in Roman calendar, Chinese people would visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors or other deceased close family/relatives. This is the time for all the old and young family members to remember the deceased family, pray before them, sweep the tombs, burn 'spirit' money and offer food like rice, some dishes, Chinese cakes, fruits, tea and so on for ancestors.

Since I was small, I'd witnessed how my parents, aunties and grandma prepared all the necessary stuff for celebrating Qing Ming. The women would cook many dishes for offerings and shopped various things to be brought to the cemetery on the next day, including flower petals. On the next early morning, my parents would bring my siblings and me to come to my late grandpa's tomb, clean the tomb, burn paper money, pray and offer the food for his spirit that was prepared the day before and throw the flower petals on his tomb.

This was sort of the only moment when we'd feel close again to the deceased relatives and remember of his/her existence in our lives before. To me, this festival is critical to preserve a strong notion of filial piety, especially for younger generations in the family. I hardly missed this festival when I was young until I started living away from my parents and hometown. I just found it hard to celebrate this festival regularly with my family and technically, I have not seen my grandpas' tombs for several years. Sad.

For the past two years, I've been following my husband to celebrate this festival in his family's hometown, Muar. We went down to Muar yesterday afternoon. After we reached the family house, we rested there for a while then headed to Tanjung Emas again with my brother-in-law, his wife and kids. As shared before, on weekends, Tanjung Emas (Golden Bay) acts as Muar's heart where most people would come to take a stroll and relax here.

The heart of Muar, Tanjung Emas.

I've visited Muar and Tanjung Emas for few times but only yesterday I found out that we could witness lots of free monkeys in a park opposite the bay in Muar. My brother-in-law introduced us this monkey's paradise in Tanjung Emas. This place offers lots of big trees, humans feeding them food, shelters and wild life for the monkeys. Visitors can just park anywhere near the park and enjoy a walk surrounded by lots of wild monkeys. This place reminds me of a village full of wild monkeys called Sangeh in Ubud, Bali.

A couple of monkeys found near our parked car.

A group of visitors feeding and taking photos of  the Mommy monkey.

 A giant tree full of monkeys.

Done with primates analyses with the kids and their parents, we walked further towards the beach and sat there for few minutes to sip the quiet scenery and watched the sunset.

 Grown up Baby Jia Thong and me sitting by the bay.

Xin Thong and her uncle.

Husband and I waited for the sunset.

Finally the sunset approached. We froze the moments of the disappearing sun below the horizon before we went home.

Beautiful sunset in Tanjung Emas.

A creative product from my husband: Me capturing the setting sun.

After dinner last night, the whole big family gathered and prepared the necessary things for praying at the tombs like folding the 'spirit' money, packing the food for offering, etc. I was looking forward to witness my husband's ancestors' tombs today until we both realized that all the elderly and some cousins had left the house to the cemetery before we woke up this morning. How unfortunate. Both of us missed the real 'Qing Ming' this year after we prepared the Qing Ming stuff last night!

I guess yesterday's evening stroll in Tanjung Emas with my husband and brother-in-law's family would be the main thing that I'd remember the most for Qing Ming this year. Initial mission for visiting Muar was not really accomplished but the whole trip this time around was not bad. Not bad at all.

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