Archive for April, 2009

Qing Ming Is About Knowing Our Family Tree

Before the Qing Ming festival ends, let me blog something about this one month festival. This Qing Ming festival or Tomb Sweeping festival is a time where we pay our respect to our elders or relatives who have left us.

I remember when I was young during my primary school days, I love this Qing Ming festival as it was a time when I could get together with my cousins. Usually my Seventh Uncle’s family would chartered for a mini bus to pick up both families for this important day.

Of course at that time, Qing Ming festival is really a Tomb Sweeping festival as our ancestors tombs were still at those graveyard at Peck San Theng. You may take a look at the old Peck San Theng here. We need to walk a distance to the tombs then, and those Indian grass cutters who can speak Cantonese much better than my kids, will lead the way. Needless to say, we had to pay them some money to clear those wild grasses at our ancestors’ tombs.

After the relocation of tombs to temples and Government-Managed Columbaria, my Seventh Uncle’s family and ours did not go together anymore during this festival. But now only my wife and my kids will accompany me to pay our respect to our ancestors.

 My Paternal Grandmother tablet was located at the Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng, while my Paternal Grandfather and Great Grandmother are at the Mandai Columbarium. I prefer the Mandai Columbarium as it is much cleaner and tidy though the distance is much further from my house.

Mandai Columbarium;

But why I said Qing Ming festival is about knowing our Family Tree? Well how many of us especially the younger generation like my kids know the relationships of who we are paying respect to? How do our kids address them in our own dialects or in Mandarin? Of course in English is much easier but I’m talking about our Chinese Roots and our own Family Tree. How much we know about our Family Tree then? Do you keep a record of your Family Tree too? I’m glad that my father bothers to keep a record of our own Family Tree when he was much healtier;

My father has 9 brothers/sisters and my father is the youngest (10th). So the one at Peck San Theng is my Paternal Grandmother or 祖母. I will address her as 奶奶. The other 2 at Mandai Columbarium are my Paternal Grandfather or 祖父 and Paternal Great Grandmother or 曾祖母. I will address my Grandfather as 爺爺 and my Paternal Great Grandmother as 老奶奶. Of course what my kids address them will be much more complex haha. Luckily my mother kept two copies of old newspaper cuttings regarding the Family Tree address or relationship. One is from The 1981 copy of The Straits Times;

I don’t quite like this set as it’s not so detail;

 The other copy is the 1988 Straits Times;

I like this copy very much as it’s not only colorful but detail and clear; Credit : Above 4, The Straits Times, SPH

I’ve to admit that I’m no good at such Chinese addresses for our relatives and elders. My wife and I also have difficulties in teaching our kids to address our relatives in Mandarin when we visit them.

One example is my wife’s elder sister and younger sister – how should my kids address them? All the while my wife asked our kids to address them (both elder and younger sister) as 姨. But I think there should be a difference and should it be my wife’s elder sister as 姨媽 and younger sister as ? Do you think so?

You may check it out here too at this site;  

“maternal elder aunt mother’s elder sister 姨母  yi4 mou5 yi2 mu3 姨媽 yi4 ma1 yi2 ma1

maternal elder aunt’s husband mother’s elder sister’s husband; 姨夫 yi4 fu1 yi2 fu1 姨丈 yi4 jeung6 yi2 zhang4  

maternal younger aunt mother’s younger sister 姨 yi4 yi2 same

 maternal younger aunt’s husband mother’s younger sister’s husband; 姨丈 yi4 jeung6 yi2 zhang4 same”

On the lighter side, Mediacorp will be showing its new Chinese drama series “

书包太重, My School Daze”. The first series on 29 Apr 2009 at 9pm Channel 8 will be interesting especially when a lady Chinese tutors teaching Mandarin to her students.

Listen carefully to what the teacher said ‘Your Mother’s Elder and Younger Sisters called姨’;

Now the second part is really hilarious;

Credit : Mediacorps.

But why is it important to know the address and relationship for Qing Ming festival? Well at least when you burn the offerings to your ancestors, you can write down who you are offering to and their relationship to you. The Green Bag is for Female (红男绿女);

The Red Bag is for Male;

This is my Grandfather’s tablet;

This is my Great Grandmother’s tablet;

You may see that usually for female (my Great Grandmother) their names were omitted as they just take after their husband’s surname. Unfair for the fairer sex right? Also note how the years were written at that time – Min Guo 民囯.

Min Guo 民囯” refers to Zhonghua Minguo 中華民囯 (Republic of China or ROC) established in 1911, but eventually had to relocate to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese nationalist (Kuomintang) lost the civil war to the Chinese communist. Therefore, the stated Min Guo year will be based on the years starting from 1911.

So, for Min Guo 27th year, it’s 1938 (since 1911+27 years)

For Min Guo 24th year, it’s 1935 (since 1911+24 years)

Btw, I do not have any religion so I’m not so well verse with all these tradition but since I’m Chinese, I must still go along with our tradition, our roots, else next time my kids will not know what and how to do when my wife and I gone.







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April 2009