Spring Festival customs in literature

( ) Updated: 2015-02-14 09:49:12

Spring Festival customs in literature

An illustration of the ancestral temple of Rong mansion depicted in chapter 53 of A Dream of Red Mansions. [Photo/]

Ancestor Worship

"Over in the Ning Mansion, Jia Zhen had the Ancestral Temple opened and swept, the sacrificial vessels prepared, the ancestral tablets put in place, and the north hall cleaned in readiness for displaying the ancestral portraits. High and low alike in both mansions were kept hard at work." (Chapter 53, an English translation of A Dream of Red Mansions by Yang Xianyi)

In the agrarian era, ancestor worship was the most significant activity during the Spring Festival. On the 18th day of the twelfth lunar month, the emperor would hold a ceremony at the royal temple, and each family would get together at the ancestral hall to pay homage to the ancestors and pray for a good harvest year.

In A Dream of Red Mansions, all the family members, both masters and servants, are present at the ancestral temple according to their ranks in the family. The lady Dowager (Grandmother Jia) stands nearest to the terrace, with other ladies arranged inside the hall in corresponding ranks, while the male members were arranged in ascending order of seniority from the inner gate to the terrace. All the servants remain outside the ceremonial gate. The offerings are passed on from hand to hand until they reached Grandmother Jia, who lay them down on the altar. After Grandmother Jia offers incense and bows, the whole clan kneels down together.

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