What is Ching Ming?


Many Americans have never heard of Ching Ming, but the Chinese tradition based on ancestor worship dates back 2,500 years. This memorial custom, also known as Grave-Sweeping Day, occurs on April 5th. The name is made up of two Chinese characters: ching , meaning pure or clean, followed by ming , which means brightness. This combination means “clean and just.”

What is the Origin of the Tradition?

China’s original religion of ancestor worship is said to be at the root of this tradition. While philosophies like Confucianism and Taoism have their roots in China, ancestor worship is the only religious principle native to China. Modern Ching Ming rituals are generally seen as happy occasions, involving a visit to the gravesite—known as “walking the mountain”—and a picnic at the site with family.

How is the Ritual Performed?

First, the area around a headstone is weeded and cleaned by the family. Incense or fake money is then burned as an offering to the deceased. Fresh flowers and objects specific to the deceased may also be placed on or near the headstone, and an offering of food and wine is prepared. The food is set in front of the headstone, and the wine is poured onto the ground in front of the headstone by each member of the family, starting with the head of the household, with each family member bowing three times. The food is then eaten by the family, a practice which is said to bring good luck. Sometimes fireworks are set off to ward off evil spirits and make the deceased aware of the family’s presence.

For more information about traditional memorial ceremonies or to plan a memorial service for a loved one, contact Skylawn Memorial Park, a full-service funeral home, cemetery, and mausoleum. Our multilingual staff will assist you in all phases of celebrating your loved one’s life and putting him or her to rest in a facility appropriate for your family’s traditions. Contact us today at (650) 349-4411 to learn more

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