Cheng Beng (qingming) is also called the All Souls Day. Recently, on the way back from Malaysia, I came across a magazine on the plane; it had an article about “cheng beng” and they actually call it “tomb sweeping festival”.
Cheng beng is normally held on the 15th day after the spring equinox of the Chinese lunar calendar, which is normally 4th (leap year) or 5th of April each year.
However, in Malaysia, relatives can visit the tomb 10 days before or after 4th or 5th of April. This is to allow more time for people who are working or have to travel afar to attend the cheng beng.
For so many years staying overseas, my husband and I hardly travelled back to Malaysia for cheng beng – until recently. We had to attend a few sessions of cheng beng, i.e. visited the tombs of my family as well as that of my in-law’s.
This is an opportunity, apart from Chinese New Year, for family members who will travel from a far to gather together to remember the deceased and to connect with the family.
Before the cheng beng, family members from far and near would gather and bunk in at a relative’s place. It was great to catch up with family members that we hardly had the chance to talk with. There would be other family members arriving on the day of the cheng beng, and we would be meeting them at the tomb sites.
During this time, the older generation has an opportunity to share some memories with the younger generations. These stories enable the younger generations to have a better understanding of their roots, ancestors, and about the family traditions and rituals that are unique to the family.
What do we do on the day?
Family members would have prepared/cooked dishes that the ancestors supposedly liked, such as chicken or seafood dishes, as well as fresh fruits and sweets. So the first thing when the family members arrive at the tomb site, the cleaning starts. The younger ones have to sweep the tomb, and the stronger and younger generation have a harder chore like weeding, clearing small trees, and to repaint the fading wording on the tomb stones.
Once the clearing and cleaning is done, we would start to set the food down. The elderly will be passing the joss sticks to everyone, giving directions on how and what to do.
They would also prepare paper money, clothing and some luxury items to be burnt, so the deceased could use them in the afterlife.
Usually during cheng beng, the weather is normally cool or even wet; however for this year, it was very hot. As a result, we did not stay too long at the tomb sites. Instead, we went home, warmed up all the dishes and gathered round for bonding and connections around our long table.
It was really great to catch up with all the relatives, some who we had not seen for a while.
Did you head back for cheng beng this year? Share your cheng beng experience with us.
Make time to meet up and connect with relatives, hang around, chat and share stories.
If you are bringing your children to attend cheng beng for the first time, it is a good idea to explain to them about the rituals of cheng beng. Explain what to expect and what they are expected to contribute – i.e. sweeping the tomb, laying the paper money along the gravesite and other do’s and don’ts.