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China: Families Head for Hills and Visit Graveyards During Today’s Grave Sweeping Festival

Holidays + Festivals

Today is the Grave Sweeping Festival, a.k.a. the Chung Yeung Festival or Double Ninth. On this day, Chinese families gather at the grave sites of their forebears for picnics and to engage in ancestor worship.

Hong-Kong-Wong-Tai-Sin-Temple-Cecilia-Pang

Burning incense at Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Cecilia Pang.

 

The Grave-Sweeping Festival falls on the 9th day of the 9th month on the Lunar Calendar. It is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture.

The Grave-Sweeping Festival dates back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD).

According to legend, a fortune-teller advised a man to take his family into the hills on the 9th day of the 9th month. When they returned to their village the following day, they discovered that everyone there had been slaughtered.

For this reason, it is customary for Chinese people to hike into the hills on this day.

They also visit grave sites - which are often located on hillsides - to have picnics, set off firecrackers, and burn paper offerings to their forebears, a practice that is sometimes referred to as ‘ancestor worship’.

Hundreds of fires break out in the New Territories during the Grave Sweeping Festival each year.

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Talking Points

Have you ever witnessed the Grave Sweeping Festival? What are your thoughts about this holiday?

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