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Chinese Canadian Museum celebrates Qingming with cemetery tours in Vancouver and Victoria

Qingming
The Chinese Canadian Museum will lead a tour of the Chinese cemetery at Harling Point (above) in Victoria and Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver. Photo by Eusebius.sophronius.

For more than 2,500 years, sinophones in many countries have been honouring their ancestors on the holiday of Qingming. This year, it falls on Thursday (April 4)—a day when families clean the gravesites of their forebears. It’s why Qingming is also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day. Visitors to the graveyards also place traditional food dishes and burn joss sticks and paper for their ancestors.

“Qingming is a time to reconnect with ancestors, many of whom faced discrimination as they built the British Columbia we enjoy today,” Premier David Eby said in a statement. “Our government seeks to preserve their stories by supporting the first Chinese Canadian museum in Canada, which opened in Vancouver last year.”

The Chinese Canadian Museum is leading two Qingming Festival Tours to educate the public about the holiday’s history and traditions. The first takes place at the Chinese Cemetery at Harling Point (2026 Penzance Road) in Victoria, which is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Former city councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe will lead the Victoria tour. The museum is charging an entry fee of $8 for this event, which takes place from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday (April 7). Thornton-Joe is the visitor experience and facilities coordinator of the Chinese Canadian Museum’s Fan Tan Alley site.

The Chinese Benevolent Association selected Harling Point as a gravesite in 1903. This ensured that deceased Chinese residents would stay in temporary repose until remains could be sent to China.

However, following the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, the remains could not be sent back to the home country. And in 1961, bones of 849 Chinese pioneers from across Canada were buried at Harling Point.

The Chinese Canadian Museum will also offer a Qingming ceremony and tour of Mountain View Cemetery (5545 Fraser Street) in Vancouver. It takes place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on the following Saturday (April 13). The fee is $15 per person, with all supplies provided for the ceremony.

The Vancouver tour has three guides: museum exhibition and program manager Sarah Ling, Chinatown historian Andrew Sandfort-Marchese, and Everlasting documentary co-director Larry Chin.

Avoid flashy jewellery on Qingming

Last year, Free Malaysia Today writer Toon Kit Yi listed six things to avoid during the Qingming festival. They include not visiting gravesites after dark. That’s because this “is when ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ energies intersect, making it easier for anyone with particularly bad ‘luck’ to run into visitors from another realm”.

In addition, the writer recommends that people wear dark or plain-covered clothing. And they should avoid flashy jewellery in recognition of this sombre occasion. Moreover, people are advised not to take pictures, avoid making too much noise, stay away if sick, and not call anyone by their full name in the graveyard.

“The reason behind this, apparently, is if there are spirits around, then knowing one’s full name would make it easier for them to pull pranks on the person or follow them home,” Toon Kit Yi wrote.

BC. Premier David Eby qingming
B.C. Premier David Eby.

Premier David Eby’s statement in Traditional Chinese

省長發表清明節聲明
維多利亞 ── 卑詩省長尹大衛 (David Eby) 發表以下清明節聲明:
「今天,卑詩省和世界各地的華人社區將參與清明節祭祖活動。清明節又稱掃墓節,人們
會清掃整理祖先的安息之地,並擺放鮮花,以表達對祖先的敬意。
「清明節是懷念祖先的時刻,許多祖先為了建設我們目前所享有的卑詩省,都曾遭受歧
視。我們政府透過支持去年在溫哥華開幕的本國首間華裔博物館,以力求保存他們的故
事。該博物館分享加拿大華人社區的歷史和造福後世的遺產,以傳承後代,並展示我們如
何齊心協力,建設一個更強大、更共融的省份。
「今天,在家庭相聚之時,我們也共同紀念他們已逝的摯愛親友,以及他們所付出的貢
獻。」

For more information on the Chinese Canadian Museum, visit the website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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