Brunei Darussalam

Qingming Festival: Burning Paper Gifts for the Dearly Departed

Qingming Festival is when Chinese people visit the graves of their ancestors. The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites where young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories to the ancestors. While not a holiday in Brunei, this festival is known worldwide by a few names: All Souls Day (not the same as the Roman Catholic holiday or All Souls Day of the same ), Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day, Grave Sweeping Day, Tomb Sweeping Day and quite possible others too. Today, being Sunday, is probably the only weekend before Qingming Festival the Chinese community are free to visit the cemetery

This photo was taken in 2009 3 years ago in the month of March during an aerial assignment. No better way to describe the view of this sacred sanctuary of the dearly departed. The two spots circled are where the photos below were taken.

I do this year after year and it’s something I enjoy doing with my mom — getting up at 5.30am, make a beeline to Tungulian, get all the work done before a cool morning turns warm — followed by breakfast at the same coffee shop in Sungai Liang that has become our favourite haunt after our (occasional) weekend trek.

There was one other family who got there before us slightly after 6am. A celebrant seen lighting up a joss stick at the temple (the greed roofed shelter next to the furnace circled pink)
Burning of gold paper inside the furnace/incinerator circled pink on top photo. PHOTO: Canon PowerShot G11. Temperature: Hot
The Chinese tradition of burning "spirit money" issued by The Hell Bank (also called hell money) after the cleaning and general housekeeping (circled green) is done. PHOTO: Canon PowerShot G11 Temperature: Extremely hot!
In Chinese culture it is believed that the departed still require material possessions. For this reason we continue the tradition of burning simple paper gifts (shirts for my grandpa, dresses for my grandma) because they were really simple people who worked hard for a living and lived a meaningful life without expensive material possessions. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

4 thoughts on “Qingming Festival: Burning Paper Gifts for the Dearly Departed

  1. Could I ask, why exactly do you burn spirit money on the day of the festival? And if I wanted to get more information about Qingming Festival and all the objects involved in the tradition, where could I find it?


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