Nature lovers will agree that autumn is the best season for hiking in Hong Kong and the third week of October is the time for another long weekend to enjoy the wonderful autumn weather: the Chung Yeung Festival.
If you are planning to head out to the countryside in the coming weekends, don’t be surprised to see crowds and families hiking up the less-beaten paths on the hillside. Chung Yeung is also a cultural festival in which memorials rituals are prominent.
The Chung Yeung Festival, also known as “Double Ninth Festival,” falls on the ninth day of the ninth month on the Chinese Almanac calendar (October 13 on this year’s solar calendar). It has a long history of ancestor worship and traditions wherein families visit ancestral graves to pay their respects. While many cemeteries have moved to indoor establishments, the festival has also evolved as an outdoor family occasion. Many families take the opportunity to both picnic and strengthen family cohesion.
As part of the worship rituals, respectably dressed grave sweepers bring food (like roast pig) as offerings to their deceased ancestors and, above all, pay their sincerest respects. It is believed that performing this ritual will bring good luck to the family. But it is also as important to note the potential hazards. Every year during the Chung Yeung Festival period there are reports of hill fires mainly because the weeds near the graveyards get burnt. Never leave burning incense unattended during grave sweeping.
Since not every family has an ancestral cemetery on a mountain or hill, some choose to pay their respects at home. Many households set up shrines on their properties to honour their ancestors or even higher powers. Regardless of religious background, it is important to find a desirable location to create the peaceful ambiance demanded. Here are the rules-of-thumb for creating a comfortable space for your ancestors:
1. The shrine should be placed at the rear of a home and facing the main entrance. It is an added advantage to place it in auspicious locations, such as those conducive to positive wealth.
2. The kitchen, bathroom or master bedroom should not be immediately behind the shrine. Traffic and noise from these areas of a house will disturb the peaceful ambiance.
3. The shrine should be placed along the wall, instead of in front of windows or other moving elements. Placement immediately beneath a ceiling beam is also inadvisable.
Whether it is grave sweeping up on a hill or ancestor worship at home, the Chung Yeung Festival conveys a key message: family is where the heart is. We should show as much love and care for the elderly as we can—which is why the occasion is also referred to as the “Elderly Festival”.