Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tomb Sweeping

In China, the period around the winter solstice is a traditional time for interment and tomb sweeping, so last week we hopped in a rented bus with 10 other relatives and headed off in the Shanghai AM rush hour towards Suzhou to visit the graves of Sun-Ling's grandfather and her grandmother's nephew. The nephew was buried during last year's solstice period and his grave was easy to find and well maintained. Offerings were made, respects were paid by bowing three times, paper money was burned by Sun-Ling's nephews, and then we were off to Grandfather's grave.

We first visited Grandfather's grave 20 years ago in a hired car. The cemetery was located "off the map" on a dirt road and we had to stop several times and ask directions. Today the cemetery is in a busy suburb with an expressway cutting it in half. Our bus driver had to stop and ask directions once, and on arriving, the new parking lot was disorienting and we had to look up the plot number and location at the cemetery office. Located on the other side of the new expressway, and up the hill, Grandfather's grave needed some small trees removed and the inscription needed fresh paint. That done, we made offerings of flowers and fruit, bowed three times, Sun-Ling's nephews burned paper money, and we headed back down the hill, over the expressway, back to the bus and on to a late lunch.

After lunch we visited an uncle and aunt in Suzhou then returned to Shanghai during the PM rush hour - a long but rewarding day.

On the expressway to Suzhou.

Grandmother's nephew's tomb.

Grandfather's grave all cleaned up.

Sun-Ling's parents bowing.

Ian and Ethan burn paper money to be used by their great-grandfather in the afterlife.

Back in Shanghai.


Kathy said...

Interesting. Grandmother's nephew. Is that third cousin? Or second cousin once removed? Twice removed?

john said...

First cousin one removed I'm told. We would call him Uncle (JoJo in Shanghainese).