The Cheng Beng tradition

The only meaning I know about the Cheng Beng or Ching Ming or Qingming tradition is the season which we dub as the hungry ghost festival. It’s a little weird sounding when you think that it’s also the time when families visit their ancestor’s grave to pay respects. Or, I guess it’s a literal manner to describe the activities of offering food in front of their graves.

So anyway, I thought of writing this to keep a rough note for myself to remember what’s needed to be done when I’ve to do this in the future.

According to my Mum, you can walk into one of the stores who sell traditional prayer stuff and just tell them you need stuff for hungry ghost festival. Besides incense and candles, I only know the treasure box with paper crafts and paper money. Not sure what you call the rest. So the good thing, based on what my Mum said is they now have packages for you.

Just need to tell the person you’re praying at the temple and whether your relative has a tombstone grave or it’s part of the ‘villa’ (not sure what’s it called). When I asked my Mum the difference, she was saying the tombstones normally have a ‘gate keeper’ accompanying the grave.

Alright. Once all stuff was prepared, we did the prayers at the temple first. Food offering was placed on a table, while we had to light some candles and incense to be placed at the God of Wealth (Tai Pak Kong). After that, we lit more candles and incense to be placed at the God of Protection (Lo Tok Kong). Though this year, we also had a tiny bowl looking incense to light and placed on top of what had 4-digit numbers. *shrug* Then, there were 2 stacks of paper offerings to burn.

We later sat around for awhile before picking up the food offering we left on the table to head down to the ‘villa’ to pay respects to my Mama (grandmother).

A table was set up and we placed 6 small cups (3 with tea and 3 with rice wine) with chopsticks. At the same time, putting our food offering on plates. We had a steamed chicken, roast pork, oranges, apples, kuih and pau. Then lighting more candles and incense to pray to my grandmother. Followed with putting incense in nearby pots as paying respect to her ‘neighbours’.

Now, family members normally will be chatting to allow eating time for the deceased. There’s no set time when the meal is done. So what we do is take 2 coins and ask the question, “are you done eating?” then tossing it with both hands. If the coin faces are opposite one another, it apparently signifies a positive yes.

Then we’ll continue the ritual of burning more paper money and the treasure box with all kinds of goodies inside from clothes, mobile phones, iPads, watches, shoes and more. Once the burning is complete, it’s time to wrap up and we’re done.