As I write this from the Bloggcast Center in the Pacific Time Zone, it's nearly dawn on April 5, 2009 in China. That means that one of the biggest holidays in China is nearly over. That would be "Tomb Sweeping Day."
Tomb Sweeping Day is called "Qing Ming" in Chinese, which means "clear and bright." A traditional holiday, it was made an official holiday by the Chinese government last year. People go to cemeteries to remember their dead ancestors by cleaning the family gravesite and placing flowers and other memorial items.
China Daily reported yesterday (Friday in the USA) that an estimated 21.6 million people will travel by rail for Tomb Sweping Day activities, according to the Chinese Ministry of Railroads.
Not too surprisingly, I suppose, is the fact that Tomb Sweeping DAy has taken on political significance. The Chinese government is using this year's Tomb Weeping Day to dedicate monuments to "heroic martyrs" of the Communist revolution. And in Taiwan, a womens rights group has brought attention to the apparently gender-biased attitudes of Taiwanese funeral directors.
According to yesterday's (today in USA) China Post, a professor at Chengchi University says that women who marry have their names registered with their husbands' families for memorial purposes. As a result, says Prof. Yan Wan-ying, Tomb Sweeping Day is a day of "common sorrow and regret" for Chinese women who, because of marriage are unable to honor their deceased parents.
These unequal traditions are being kept alive by government policies that favor men over women. For example, according to the professor, of the 151 questions on the government licensing examination for morticians, thirty-seven are "gender-related."
I should point out that tradition would celebrate Tomb Sweeping day on April 4 this year; the government's statutory holiday is Monday, April 6. So whether you celebrated today or you're just eager to have Monday off, Happy Tomb Sweeping Day and the highest regards to your ancestors.