Ching Ming is the day to pay respect to our departed ancestors by visiting the tombs. It’s an important Chinese tradition even for the Chinese origin in Malaysia.

It’s my annual family gathering too! My friends felt strange to hear me saying ‘family picnic’ on graveyard. They looked at me to find any trace of jokes on my face.

Let me show you what we have always done.

First of all, there will be few phone calls among dad and his brothers. Usually there’s no conclusion in the men’s talk. It takes another few rounds of phone call among the wives of them to confirm the day and the details.

When the day been fixed, dad has to do his countdown on cleaning the tomb before the big day.


We arrive at the site at dawn. Always keep in mind that any thought of horror movie’s scene are strictly prohibited.

chinese ancestor tomb colourful flagsflosers candles incense stick festival tradition

While our parents assembling the necessaries to their parents, the young ones plant the colourful mini flags into the soil. I always felt uplifted looking at the cheerful colours.

tomb stone chinese name ching mingtomb stone chinese name ching ming

My grandparents. They are as beautiful as ever. Notice that not just Chinese script on the tombstone.


candles incense stick colourful papersIncense sticks candle praying graveyard

The ceremony starts with the fire of life — the burning of incense sticks and candles. We inviting them to join us.

We used two 50-cent coins to do Q&A with them. The answer has to be either yes or no.

Throw the coins onto the ground. If both coins showing different surface, it means yes.

The question always is — “Are you here?’

If the answer is no. Keep throwing after few minutes!


Chinese steam pau or man tao with red colouringFood offering for ancestors

The usual roasted pork, dumplings, steam breads, nyonya kuih and fruits. My grandparents have to adapt to our current taste as well. For example we loved the nasi lemak made by my mum and it’s our favourite must-have breakfast food on the tomb.

Joss paper and mock money

Money is important no matter where!

We also burn other paper-made items as an offering. The offerings become creative each year. Clothes, shoes, car, house, mobile phone, even maid and pet. Whatever we could afford.

I know people would laugh at this. Trust me. We laugh at it too.

In fact our favourite jokes topics are all about imagining my grandparents receive the items. The shoes with the wrong size. The telecommunications operator that existing there. What’s the inflation rate after we supplied too much money like every other families.


joss papers for prayer

All those ready made items only existed later. Traditionally, it was the family who made the golds or silvers from joss papers.

There are many types of joss paper. But the most common one is this rectangle A5 size with coarse texture. Gold or silver depending on the foil on the surface. They are sold in stacks.

First thing to do is to spread the papers from the stack. Notice they spread out like a fan. This technic takes time to learn.

joss paper ching ming ceremony graveryard

joss paper ching ming ceremony graveryard

Easy peasy for beginners.

joss paper ching ming ceremony graveryardjoss paper ching ming ceremony graveryard

This shape can be done earlier and kept nicely. It is stackable just like Ikea’s chairs.

joss paper ching ming ceremony graveryardjoss paper ching ming ceremony graveryard

This is the most difficult shape to form. Your fingers have to be at the right place and right direction when you pull. I found a video on this.

Joss papers for prayer ching ming chinese tomb

We always piled them as high as we can.

When we think they have eaten, or when we feel hungry, we do Q&A again. Coins throwing session once more!

Joss papers fire burning ceremony

The burning marks the end of the ceremony. Finally we get to eat!

candles incense stick burning

We must thank this little tomb as he is the god who guards the area.

Ching Ming is what my dad does his best for his parents. He is doing it because he is still able to do it. We as his children just be there for him. To stand by him and the family.


Some of you might think why people care about Ching Ming.

What is life after death. Or even, if there’s any. In what sense we are to believe the fortune and luck passing on to us from our ancestors.

A more realistic question — how are we going to maintain the tombs on the years coming? Is it feasible to claim a space of this earth after we died?

But hey, take it easy. Make a fest out of it!

We laughed and ate together. Listening to their childhood tales makes me feel like I’m on a time machine travelling to those past decades. A nostalgic feelings. The time when we were growing up together. The time before the death of my grandparents.

I can’t explain it. But I’m definitely going to miss it.