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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Apr 14, 2012

Qing Ming Festival 2012

This Year, Qing Ming Festival falls on Wednesday, 4th April 2012, but Ancestral Tomb Visiting can be done before that. In 2012, Vernal (Spring) Equinox occurs on 20th March 2012 (at precisely 1:14am EDT or 05:14 Universal Time, the Sun will cross over the Earth’s Equator directly, this moment is known as the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere), and people can start their Ancestral Tomb Visiting on this day.

The Qingming Festival (simplified Chinese: 清明节; traditional Chinese: 清明節) is also known as the Ching Ming Festival, which means 'Clear and Bright Festival'. This is a long-established Chinese festival that falls on the 104th day after the winter solstice. This day occurs generally around 5th of April according to the Chinese calendar. The Qing Ming Festival is the "All Souls' Day" observed among the Chinese Singaporeans to honor the ancestors.

On the day of the festival, all the families visit shrines and ancestral graves to perform their customary rites. A few of the rites performed by the people are cleaning up the family graves, burning incense and candles, repainting dedications, and offering food items in memory of their ancestors.

The Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, also the Bright Hill Pujue Ch'an Monastery is located at 88 Bright Hill Road at Bishan. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore.

In 1920, Venerable Zhuan Dao built the temple as a place of practice to propagate the Dharma and to provide lodging for monks, as there were many Buddhist monks who came to Singapore without lodging. In 1921, the building of Phor Kark See Monastery was the first traditional Chinese forest monastery in Singapore. Since Phor Kark See Monastery is situated at Kong Meng San ("Bright Hill", formerly "Hai Nan Mountain"), it has come to be known as Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

Both my parents were cremated at Kong Meng San and their sariras were housed in urns in the "Hall of Gratitude" columbarium pagoda at the temple.

As with many Chinese Singaporeans, I have observed the traditional Qing Ming annual practice for over three decades since both my parents passed away.

Most of the Chinese Singaporean community would pick the nearest weekend during this period to visit the graves of their deceased relatives and ancestors or to visit the temples where the ashes of their ancestors are stored.

Qingming has a tradition stretching back more than 2,500 years. Its origin is credited to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. Emperor Xuanzong, seeking to curb this practice, declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestors' graves only on Qingming. The observance of Qingming found a firm place in Chinese culture and continued since Ancient China.

I went to Kong Meng San today and indeed it was raining. Qing Ming is often accompanied by rain, and it is also reflected in a poem about Qing Ming from a Tang Dynasty poet, Du Mu (杜牧).

清明时节雨纷纷 (A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day)

路上行人欲断魂 (The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way)

借问酒家何处有 (Where can a tavern inn be found to drown his sadness?)

牧童遥指杏花村 (A shepherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance)

Photo credit acknowledge with thanks to the National Archives of Singapore for the old photos of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in 1986 posted to the blog.

The current photos (below) of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. Photo credit with acknowledgement and thanks to Steve (PSChia) at pBase.



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