March 17, 2012

Japanese Professor Visits My Grandfather's Tomb

This is a prelude to the Ching Ming Festival which is just around the corner. But Ching Ming usually coincides with very fine weather in Sarawak and in China.

My friend Meng Lei brought Professor Hiroshi to study the cemeteries of the Chinese on 11th March 2012 which happened to be the anniversary of the Earthquake in Japan.



One of the graves they visited was my Great Grandfather and Grandfather's "double grave".

The above photo taken by Meng Lei shows Prof Hiroshi taking a photo  of my grandfather's tomb.

The professor noticed:
1. This tomb is unique in size  - it is a double "faced" tomb or two in one (in fact it is a multiple tomb). One side is my Great Grandfather's who was buried with his wife. On my grandfather's lot - he had his own space. Next to him are the lots of my Second Grandmother (Wong) and my Third Grandmother (Siew). In case you might like to ask - My grandmother (Chong) predeceased my Great Grand Parents and my Grandfather. She was buried on a lovely hill opposite the MYM Cemetery. She was 38 only.

2. All words written on this special tomb were by Rev Yao Siew King - my grandfather's good friend and partner.Each tomb has 6 sets of Chinese phrases (Chen Yu) which denote the values of the Chinese. The words/phrases actually signify my grandfather's love for education.

3. The design is very Fujian of China and the coffin is placed above the land level.

4. To prevent damage this double tomb has a big fence with a small gate.

5. Mt  grandfather's headstone has the names of his seven sons ONLY following the traditions of the Foochows. So this grave is very typical of Foochow graves. It is rare to find a grave where the daughters' names are inscribed also.

All Foochows in the past in Sibu would prepare their graves ahead of their own passing. In Foochow this is called "Chok Hung Chui". They would scout for a proper lot and decide on the design. So according to what I learn from some relatives my grandfather took time to design this tomb for his parents and for himself as a very far sighted act.



Having a grave constructed is a very serious matter and many taboos have to be followed so that the younger generation is blessed. And the best person to consult is the contractor who does the construction. He would have all the advice at his finger tips...Other elders' words should also be taken into consideration. The after life house in a way is as important as our own home.....

Decisions on maintenance and upkeep of ancestral tombs are made by the members of the male line only traditionally.

My great grandfather and my grand father's double grave is found in the Mee Yee Mee (or Methodist Episcopal Mission) Cemetery which is the oldest Methodist Cemetery in Sibu and the one nearest to Sungei Merah Bazaar.

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I noticed in China where bones of several generations were gathered and put into a new single grave. All the names are written on the grave. I also found the words inscribed on the grave in China are slightly different. The direction is also indicated. The old days were not in A.D., thus it is difficult to find out the exact years (may be easy by referring to a history book).

How long do we stay in a house? 100 years? But the grave is forever. So we should be more serious with designing the grave.

14-doo boy

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear 14 Doo Boy
Thanks for your imput...and your opinion which is also a majority view. I would prefer cremation since I cannot picture myself in any other cemetery ....my ashes will be in a mountainous place where I can hear Kang Ding Chin Ger.....snow on the mountains..and green valleys below..shepherds and sheep..and birds singing in the skies..yes pine trees of course. Males should be buried properly.

Just a thought. And I don't think I will change my mind though.

Ann said...

I did a bit of research, such graves are called Arm Chair.

Your grandpa or his grand children were very rich to have such a big arm chair.

I thought of this when we were discussiing the swivelling chair.

ill find my link

Ann said...

http://annkschin.blogspot.co.nz/2008/11/chinese-grave.html

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Ann..didn't know the term. Now I understand. No..I believe that it was because he loved his father very much...so he built a big one...The land is also prime site..according to your research he had chosen well...facing the west? Is that good?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Ann...I got the link and edited my work...see above.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Changyi
My father was buried next to his Majong friend for a life time.He was the Towkay of Hai Bing Lodging house in Sibu, murdered somehow.

Lisa

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Lisa..which cemetery was he buried in? I will be visitng several graves ahead of Ching Ming when I go back soon. Want me to take a look if it is near my relatives?

Let me know...

Ann said...

Hi CY,

I read with amusement in today's FB that the Foochows don't have their own cemetery? Is this correct?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

hAHAHAH no wonder you are amused. The Foochows have been burying their dead in any cemetery known in Sibu and elsewhere..the rich in the Nivarna and others in Sibu Benevolent (Kwang Yuong Society) or Methodist Cemetery. The Foochow Association per se does not have its own cemetery. This leads to some kind of chuckles..the Cantonese have their own dialectic cemetery for example. So I believe our Foochow dead must be quite an assimilated group!!Forigve me Lord for being irreverent. LOL.

Nang Chong Stories : Tiffin Carriers

School meals in the 1950's and 60's were simple fare. No Foochow activist like Jamie Oliver would have fought for better school meal...