上坟

There is a term that I learned in class today while reading a contemporary Chinese short story.

“上坟 (shàngfén)” is the term and it refers to going to a grave to cherish the memory of the dead. It also has the idea of “sweeping the tombs” of one’s ancestor’s in remembrance of them. To simply remember a lost loved one seems to be harmless but the Chinese usually take it a little farther than that. I wrote about this before when describing one the the Chinese festivals, read about it here.

In the story I was reading, an older lady was taking her deceased husband his favorite foods and some bottles of alcohol to his gravesite. I asked my Chinese teacher why she was doing this and what the purpose behind it was. She told me that is was Chinese custom and that it represented a small amount of HOPE.

Those words sunk deep into me. Think about that for a minute, the pain, agony, and unknown of loosing a loved one causes those without real hope to create superstitions that ease the pain. This superstition is then passed on from generation to generation because of the darkness they still live in.

She asked me if we do this in America and I told her that we didn’t. I told her that though I may go visit a grave and remember someone that my only hope is in Jesus Christ because He is the true Hope of all the world!

Pray for my teacher to come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “上坟

  1. Lisa

    it’s interesting that they do that in Peru too. Nov. 1st they celebrate the day of the dead, go have a picnic at the graveside, and thousands and thousands were still going at dusk yesterday. Sad!

    Reply
  2. Joseph

    I would be cautious about criticizing Chinese traditions like this. Sure, they often carry Buddhist trappings (and Christians should have no part of the full-blown ceremonies, burning money, etc). However, for most Chinese these are their culture’s way of honoring the dead.

    As for American equivalents, we have memorial day. We leave flowers on graves and bury our dead in nice clothes, often with jewelry and other objects. The concept is pretty much the same. Note that in China, cremation is the norm; they have to leave objects on the graves to honor the dead in that way. Unless you’re going to argue that Americans should not decorate their graves or be buried with favorite objects (a pastor with his Bible or a football for a high school senior), then I advise caution in critiquing this custom.

    Reply

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.