Brunei Darussalam

ICONS OF STRENGTH AND PURITY

Every year on April 5 the Chinese community gathered at the Chinese cemetery to celebrate Remembrance Day or Tomb Cleaning Day, an important day for all Chinese to respect their ancestors. After the tombs are cleaned, chicken, tea, fruits and incense are typically offered to the ancestors and to have the blessing of the forefathers.

I find the many statues of lions and lotus flowers fascinating considering I am a regular visitor (regular by ritual standard). Interesting thing is how these statues have evolved into icons that symbolize strength (lion) and purity (lotus).

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© Jan Shim Photography

The lion guards the tomb against impious visitors and evil spirits and the lion’s watch is as eternal as the stone in which it’s depicted. The lotus flower, on the other hand, grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. At night the flower closes and sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again. Quote from a source, “Untouched by the impurity, lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind and represents long life, health, honor and good luck.

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© Jan Shim Photography

Every year, I would visit the cemetery before April 5 to avoid the crowd and yesterday, like every year, I got up at 5 am, grabbed a cup of coffee and left the house before visible rays of dawn. By the time my mom and I were finished cleaning (includes pulling out a near blistering amount of weed) we stopped by a nearby coffee shop for breakfast before we headed home.

On of the interesting aspects of these statues in particularly, the lotus, is they are not defined by basic geometry unlike building architecture. Speaking of which, I dropped the kids off the Oil & Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC) in Seria to join a couple of caucasian children in their Little Explorer World Water Day: Cool Science. We arrived early and as I had my 5D and 100mm Macro lens, the conspicuous and elaborate use of shapes inside was both interesting and relevant for what it represents—science and technology!

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© Jan Shim Photography

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© Jan Shim Photography

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© Jan Shim Photography

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© Jan Shim Photography

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© Jan Shim Photography

10 thoughts on “ICONS OF STRENGTH AND PURITY

  1. wow that is interesting and a very honorable concept, i had no idea of such an event. and those statues are beyond what words can describe or what “pictures” (even with 1000 words, they still cant describe how beautiful they are Jan, lol). art like that you would have to see and feel for it to be preserved in the mind as a true masterpiece. but i must admit those photos came really close to doing just that, great work again Jan.

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  2. Great gesture to follow this venerable tradition.It might be of interest to note that the Qing Ming Je (Tomb sweeping day) is one of the few traditional Chinese festivals that correspond fairly closely with the Gregorian calendar. This one falls around 4th or 5th April.
    KB-lad

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  3. Hi, Jan.

    I’m always impressed with your photos and your phototaking skills. Things that look normal to our eyes can be transformed into something special through your camera’s lens. I’m looking forward to more of your works. Thanks, Jan! 🙂

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  4. Don’t u just think tradition is a beautiful thing it does restore our faith in somethings right …

    Definitely. It’s all too easy to fall into the trappings of modernization especially one that’s charging ahead too fast we tend to sideline or fail to make time for tradition.

    Great use a Macro lens ! Love the patterns … Was the lotus statue using the 100mm, too ?

    Yes Zul. This is why I find the 5D full frame so usable. 100mm on a 1.6 crop might have actually pushed me over the ledge if you can picture the architecture of the tombs at a Chinese cemetery.

    With the tendency of cemeteries to morph into memorial parks you should be able to get some interesting photos of happy people using their techno-gadgets somewhere in the there.

    Not the ones in Brunei. Unlike Christian cemeteries that I’ve seen on TV and memorial parks I’ve visited at Pearl Harbour and in the Philippines, Chinese cemeteries here are not conducive to such casual visits and are certainly nowhere near park-capable.

    art like that you would have to see and feel for it to be preserved in the mind as a true masterpiece. but i must admit those photos came really close to doing just that, great work again Jan.

    Thanks for the awe-inspiring words (no pun intended given the nature of post). Appreciate the support and motivation!

    Your photos never fail to amaze me!

    Thanks. I share your sentiment—I’m also amazed as long as my cameras never fails me! 🙂

    It might be of interest to note that the Qing Ming Je (Tomb sweeping day) is one of the few traditional Chinese festivals that correspond fairly closely with the Gregorian calendar. This one falls around 4th or 5th April.

    Interesting indeed—I didn’t know that. Due to work, most people will have visited their ancestors yesterday (Sunday) but this year I’ll see if I can drop by for a photo on the actual day where various Chinese associations are expected to perform a ritual. I imagine traffic would be quite impossible too!

    I’m always impressed with your photos and your phototaking skills. Things that look normal to our eyes can be transformed into something special through your camera’s lens. I’m looking forward to more of your works. Thanks, Jan!

    Terence, thank you very much!

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