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More pay tribute to dead loved ones
By Zou Huilin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-01 00:59

Millions of Chinese will soon sweep tombs of their beloved ones.

The number of people in this metropolis expected to mark Qingming, a traditional festival for mourning beloved dead ones, is a sign that the Chinese patrilineal clan culture and tradition of ancestry worshipping may be making a comeback.

As the festival on April 4, or the 15th day of the third lunar calendar month, approaches, statistics show that more local citizens have gone to sweep the tombs of their deceased relatives, mainly in the city's suburbs.

The number of Shanghai citizens who have swept or will sweep their ancestors' tombs in the two weeks around the festival may surpass 6.46 million, an increase of 6 per cent from last year, said the Funeral Management Department of the Shanghai Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau. Last year 6.1 million citizens visited their relatives' tombs.

The Qingmingor Tomb Sweeping Festival, is an important event marked by family gatherings.

Tradition dictates that all the family members of a patriline clan should go together to sweep their common ancestors' tomb.

During the tomb sweeping ceremony, Chinese people will burn incense and candles and pray to their ancestors for a prosperous future.

They will kowtow before the tombs of their deceased grandparents or parents to show their respect and finally offer sacrifices such as green glutinous dumplings, liquors, and spirit money to their deceased relatives in hopes that the dead will lead a happy and prosperous life in the other world.

The Chinese believe that in this way, their ancestors will bless them and help them live a peaceful and healthy life.

Experts say the fact that more people in Shanghai are marking the festival is a positive trend.

Tian Zaoyuan, a professor at the History College of Shanghai University who is a folklore studies expert, said Shanghai people now attach more importance to family bonds despite quick economic development.

"The Chinese people from the more economically developed areas such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Zhejiang Province, Guangdong Province, Fujian Province are more willing to sweep their ancestors' tombs, which suggests the far-reaching impact of the patrilineal clan culture in China."

Folklore experts also believe the clan culture also strengthens family ties, which in turn boosts many privately-owned businesses usually operated by entire families.

Tian said the clan culture emphasizes the trust and support between family members and this is the key to the success of family businesses.

At the same time, family ties help lower investment risks and make fund raising easier.

Therefore, the experts pointed out, economic development and the Chinese clan culture interact with each other in a benign circle.

Gu Chunyan, another folklore expert, noted that tomb sweeping ceremonies can also be used to hold family reunions, enabling ongoing communication among family members.

Tian noted that the trend also shows more and more people have higher self-esteem and are taking their children with them to sweep their ancestor's tomb. They hope they can set a good example for kids in terms of respect to their deceased loved ones.

The hope is that one day, when they die, they will be treated the same way by their children.

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