How Christians Practice Qingming Festival Traditions, Survey Results Released

A girl in the graveyard.
A girl in the graveyard. (photo: CCD File Photo)
By Ruth WangApril 26th, 2017

A survey on how Christians commemorate their ancestors on Qingming festival shows the inculturnation of Christinity and Catholism in China.

The survey was conducted by Xinde (Catholic Portal in China) and Christian Times (online Christian News website).

Until 4:00 pm of April 2 before the arrival of Qingming Festival (also called Sweep Clean Day), at least 2,013 people participated in the survey in, 86% of these participants or 1,732 people, were Catholic. The turnout showed a general picture about the Catholic practice in the festival.

Until 11 am of April 3, at least 966 people took part in the survey posted on Christian Times and 82% of them or 891 participants were Christians. The results mirrored the position of Christians regarding the old traditions.

The results indicated that Christians are more conservative than Catholics in terms of making offerings to ancestors. Christians' conservative attitude was affected partly by the teachings of Protestantism which stressed that making offerings to ancestors is as sinful as worshiping idols and by the process of its formation.

The answers for the eighth question indicated that 70% of Catholics inherited their faith from their parents while 60% of Protestants were newly baptized. After the opening up policy in 1970 was issued in China, Christianity experienced a wave of growth with more people being baptized to the faith. Born after the cultural reformation when China abolished the four typical old social practices, most of them, especially those young people born in the 90's, are not familiar with the tradition of making offerings to ancestors or pay less attention to it than the former generations.

In the same time after the Christian Times issued the questionaire on its WeChat account, many comments and feedback indicated, to some degree, that Protestants believe that Christians can respect and remember ancestors; but, they should not worship them.

The following are some typical messages left in the article.

"Making offerings to ancestors is equal to worshiping idols." 

Should not I remember my mother?

The word "Jizu" (making offerings to ancestors) is wrong. Do not you know that you can use "Saomu" meaning sweep the grave?

Personally I think that Jizu is a means for the juniors to show their filial piety for ancestors. I do not know whether this is against the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I think it is natural to remember ancestors who have raised us. Without them, how could we come here to serve the Lord?

Making offerings to ancestors and going to graves are different things! Please do not mix them together! Making offerings to ancestors is making offerings to dead ancestors' souls, which is superstitious. Going to graves means remembering dead ancestors like godly Israelites who cherish their ancestors' graves. If they did not cherish their graves, they could have thrown away their ancestors' corpse anywhere.

Making offerings to ancestors and sweeping their graves is idolatry, which Christians should not do. Worship the Lord your God, serve Him alone! When parents are alive, they should serve them well!

I think everything can be done, as long as it does not bring discomfort to one's conscience. We can remember ancestors, but do not think that one needs to burn incense or paper and engage in other meaningless activities. When we remember our ancestors, relatives gather together to recall the virtues of the deceased and sum up their experiences of life.

Though I resented sweeping ancestors' graves in the past, after the death of my parents, I found that I truly missed them. Despite the fact the church held burial service for them, I still found myself being comforted and feeling at peace when I went to their grave with flowers to express my remembrance of them. I would pray too; but, I did not worship them.

I personally think that Christians can go to their ancestors' graves during Qingming Festival and during the Spring Festival to pray for their souls and sweep their graves. However, we should forbid making offerings, burning paper money to them and not mention to bow down in worshiping them so that the world can see that Christians respect their ancestors in line with the greatest principle of glorifying God and benefiting people in their life.

Christians should not mingle with the secular world. Making offerings to ancestors is a non-Christian practice for the living people to see. We should take time to fulfill our duty to our parents and seniors when they are alive. Christians should live by God's will and keep their souls pure from secular things.

When one's parents are alive, we should try to fulfill our duty to them. After they leave the earth, we do not need to do it again.

If we miss our deceased loved ones, we can go to their graves with some flowers in our spare time apart from special seasons, such as Qingming Festival, to pray. I think this is good but if I am wrong, may God forgive me!

Translated by Alvin Zhou 

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