Online Tomb Sweeping Modernizes Chinese Tradition
Every April, Chinese families pay homage to their ancestors on Tomb Sweeping Day, (Qing Ming Jie, 清明节), cleaning the graves and making offerings to family members that have passed away. In years past, this tradition required a short trip to the grave site for families, often only a walk or short ride away. Now, more and more Chinese have moved far away from their childhood homes–sometimes across the country–in search of work and better opportunities. The cost of travel around Tomb Sweeping Day spikes as millions travel home to visit graves for the holiday and requesting time off work to travel for several days can be difficult.
To address these troubles, some Chinese are now turning to a technological option that allows them to commemorate their loved ones efficiently and from their own home. This month, the Wall Street Journal’s China RealTime reported that websites like Waheaven.com now allow users to create “web shrines” that they can add candles, offerings, and flowers to honor their ancestors online. The site also permits users to create elaborate burial sites, even replicating the Forbidden City as an option.
Sites like Waheaven.com provide an easy and inexpensive means to complete a familial duty (one that perhaps some do not really wish to partake in) or join in celebrating a tradition when it might not otherwise be possible. Of course, some families still see value in honoring their ancestors through the pilgrimage to the grave site and the family time spent together on that journey. The human connections made over sharing even the sorrow of death can build relationships and trust for a lifetime, if allowed to develop in person. As the article notes, older generations are hesitant to adopt this tech-based form of family gathering. Chinese culture is particularly family-focused, and most Chinese holidays involve large family meals and group customs. For example, during Qing Ming, families dance, sing songs, and fly kites. The group aspect is important to the celebration of the holiday, a feeling that is difficult to create online no matter how advanced the technology.
What do you think? I’d love to hear!