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Millions to honour dead over festival
By Bao Daozu (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-04 06:26

The annual Qingming Festival is fast approaching, with millions expected to make the pilgrimage to the tombs of their ancestors armed with brooms.

In Beijing alone, more than 400,000 people paid tribute to their deceased loved ones on Saturday with a similar figure estimated for yesterday.

Qingming Festival, also known as "Tomb Sweeping Day," falls tomorrow and is one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that follows the solar calendar, typically coming on April 4, 5 or 6.

Many Chinese will visit their family graves over the Qingming period to commemorate the dead and pray for a blessing.

"This year's peak period for tomb sweeping started on March 26 and will run through April 10," said Huang Xiaoquan, an official with the Beijing funeral management authority. "On the actual day of the Qingming Festival there will be another new high."

Huang said his organization has been working extra shifts for the past month to prepare to receive the influx of visitors.

He said a temporary headquarters of the Beijing Qingming tomb sweeping receiving service has been established to guarantee a safe, smooth tour for visitors.

The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau has also upped police numbers to relieve traffic congestion and advised people to use public transport when visiting the tombs, mainly located in the city's suburbs.

To avoid bottlenecks during tomb sweeping rush hour, between 8 and 9 in the morning, the bureau has also advised people to stagger the timing of their visits.

However, Huang said though there is no folklore saying tomb sweeping must be done in the morning, people like to do it early as the festival has taken on new significance in recent years.

"The tomb sweeping ceremony is also seen as a chance for families to gather and people often head off on spring outings or take part in other activities after the rituals in the morning," Huang said. "So the earlier, the better."

The nation is also seeing some new tomb-sweeping methods, with people now able to sweep a cyber-tomb by leaving a message online and in Northeast China's Dalian, sea burials have become a new trend.

Thousands of people visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial and Yuhuatai Martyrs Cemetery over the weekend to pay their respects to revolutionary martyrs and victims of the Nanjing Massacre.

"We come here every year to show our respects for the revolutionary martyrs and learn about the history of our country," said a girl from Nanjing No 3 High School.

East China's Fujian Province, the ancestral home of most Taiwan residents, has seen a peak in cross-Straits travel with many Taiwanese returning to the mainland in the past week.

More than 3,000 Taiwan residents have returned to Fuzhou, the provincial capital, by air and since March 21, more than 550 Taiwan residents have made the trip by sea.

More than 60,000 local residents visited graveyards and crematories to worship their passed relatives over the weekend in South China's Guangzhou.

The visits have spurred sales of roasted pork, chicken and other related food and products, traditionally used to pay homage to ancestors.

(China Daily 04/04/2005 page2)

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