Easter, yeah...Passover, yeah...
The big holiday this weekend is Qingming Jie, on Monday, April 4. This one dates back to the Tang Dynasty, with origins in the BC era. Also known as the Tomb-Sweeping Holiday, this non-religious celebration is all about paying respect to dead relatives and sending up some gifts for them to enjoy in the afterlife. It's a big deal. A lot of folks will travel home this weekend -- all the highways are toll free. And it always rains.
Not every family sweeps the graves themselves -- some pay the graveyard to keep the tomb clean year-round. Others even pay professional mourners to weep for them. Generally, Qingming Jie involves going to the grave bearing fruits, flowers, and other gifts, then laying them down and lighting an incense. Once that's burning, you can speak with your relative until the incense burns out, thus closing the line of communication.
Qingming Jie traditions vary widely by region. People in south China will eat a qingtuan
, that sticky green cake you've probably seen on the streets these days. According to one Shanghai tradition, women on their period shouldn't visit any graves on Qingming Jie. Not the case in Xi'an. In some places, if a relative has died in the last three years, the family must visit their grave on Qingming. After three years have passed, they can go before or after. A lot of people choose to visit on another day because of traffic.
You can gift fruits and flowers, but modern technology has allowed for way cooler gifts to send up to the fam in the afterlife -- even luxuries they may never have enjoyed on planet earth. We went down to the Yu Fu Temple
(Jade Buddha Temple) at Anyuan Lu and Jiangning Lu yesterday to see just what you can buy for the deceased in 2015.
"Pour out a little liquor" - Tupac
Just like when you meet your boyfriend / girlfriend's dad for the first time, it's got to be Maotai or better.
"It don't make sense, going to heaven with the goodie-goodies / Dressed in white, I like black Timbs and black hoodies" - Notorious B.I.G.
You can't get lung cancer if you're already dead. Just a lil' sampler pack of China's most baller cigarettes.
"See you at the crossroads...crossroads...crossroads…" - Bone Thugs In Harmony
Nice gold set right here, and this Nokia phone that actually says "HADES". Time to play some Snake...
But for those relatives who would have bought an iPhone 7++++, here's a multi-pack of the latest in 3G technology.
Which is good, in case they need to open up a Photoshop file. In heaven.
And these features...
"Is there a heaven for a gangsta?" - Master P
Hot hand in the Mahjong game...
"I wonder if heaven got a ghetto" - Tupac
Gonna need some cash for that mahjong game...racks and racks going for 15rmb a stack.
Lots of other gifts too: bottles of cognac, luxury cars, airplanes, Playstations, Xboxes, and more. All of these cost between 10–30rmb. You should be able to find these around other temples like Longhua Temple
So, you stuff all these gifts into one of these red bags -- almost like a Christmas stocking -- then write your relative's name and the date on it. Then you light that bag on fire near the grave, thus delivering these offerings to the fallen.
Then back up. If you breathe in too much of this smoke, you might really start communicating with your relatives. They're about to have a rad time, thanks to all your gifts.
If you're looking for a grave to hit up in Shanghai this weekend, you may want to try Xu Guangqi's
tomb in his park near the corner of Nandan Lu and Caoxi Lu (Xujiahui Metro exit 1).
Xu was the Shanghainese mathematician, astronomer, and Renaissance man who basically brought Western math and science to China. Most of the Chinese names for math terms like "right-angle" come from this guy. And he's where Xujiahui got its name. His park is really chill.
Happy Qingming Jie -- watch out for ghosts!