Installations > Honoring Our Beloved Dead

Festival of Pure Brightness, triptych, Chinese altar, maggieyee
Ching Ming
Mixed Media

Ching Ming or the Festival of Pure Brightness

This festival is based on traditions practiced in Hawaii by Chinese immigrants , who made their journey to Hawaii over 130 years ago. The Day of the Dead and Ching Ming have some similarities, although Ching Ming is held the whole month of April. The triptych here illustrates two events, death and ancestral worship.


The first box, “Time to Turn Away”
An ideal burial site would have sloping hills with mountains behind, open fields in the front, and a body of water nearby. At funerals, women wear white and a black ribbon, men wear dark colors and black arm bands. Hard candy is given to funeral attendees to sweeten the day of sorrow; and lisee, small coins wrapped in red paper is also given. The lisee is supposed to be spent that day on something sweet. Folk wisdom among Chinese dictates that you turn away when the coffin is being closed or lowered into the grave. The spirit of the deceased will not see who is confining the body to the coffin or committing it to the ground. It is also believed that the soul of a living person could be captured by the deceased and sealed in the casket if one did not turn away.

The second box, “Journey Home”
A funeral banquet is usually held after the burial service. 3000 years ago in China, the villages were far apart and people traveled far to pay their last respects. The banquet was a token of appreciation. A bowl with food and a pair of chopsticks would send the travelers home. Banquets of old tradition consisted of a five course vegetarian fare. Banquets today include jai, a vegetarian dish along with chicken, seafood, roast pork, noodles and tofu.

The third box, “Stepping on the Green”
The annual Ching Ming occurs during April. Families meet at the grave site on an agreed day. The traditional offerings of food are brought to the cemetery. A roast pork represent earth, fish the sea and chicken the heavens. Other food like dim sum, sweet buns, oranges, and tea are consumed at the grave site picnic style with family members. Ritual items include incense, fresh flowers and decorative ornaments. Ceremonial offering such as paper money with gold or silver surfaces folded in the shape of boats, along with hell money, is burned at the end of the ritual. The more money burned the better for ancestral spirits to buy services or merits in the spiritual world. Firecrackers end the visit to ward off evil spirits lurking around the cemetery. In Hawaii, Ching Ming is a memorial for ancestors, bringing several generations together, and teaching children the ritual of honoring their ancestors.

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