Whilst it isn't the most obviously cheery of China's festival, the underplayed "tomb-sweeping" festival is still quite interesting. Many of my students (I think most) went back to be with there families and to check that the ancestors were still where they were left. The ceremonies are obviously private, family affairs. That is to say - we weren't invited to attend any real ones!
Although I was unable to find any relatives of my own out here ( I'm not even sure if Ed's got any out here) I decided to honour mine in the traditional way even though they weren't very near by..
Normally only temples sell the "hell money" which is burnt. But for the last fortnight most shops have been selling it. It comes in two forms. The traditional stuff which is made of brown paper and punched with holes (see right) and the new stuff which looks reasonably similar to the real Chinese currency. The new stuff can actually be bought in denominations of 1,000,000 yuan per note.
Unfortunately, by the time I got round to buying any, they only had 100s left. This is bad news because of the significance of the money. The purpose is not to burn the money because you are renouncing material goods. What you burn turns up in the ancestors wallets on the other side. The more you burn the richer they are, and the more you can ask for in return. Normal requests from the students that I talked to were the predictable "Please give me good luck in the exams" and "Please help me to study harder" etc etc.
Oh - you're also meant to burn it in a circle. I'm not really sure why though.
People had been squatting over small burning piles for several days up to the festival building up their pyres. James and I found the remnants of one families offerings. That is one of the first pictures. We decided not to use their circles, because they might have had some significance of which we weren't aware. Instead we got out a felt tip pen, made a circle of our own and set too. I should have burnt some money for the ancestor's of Minolta too. This little camera has done really well out here and these are just some more (I think) excellent pictures from the minute bundle of wizardry)
Launched on December 25th 2003