Tomb sweeping day

Today is Tomb sweeping day, April the 4th is a public holiday. Here is all the low down on this long celebrated Chinese festival.

Celebrated two weeks after the vernal equinox, Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that follows the solar calendar– typically falling on April 4, 5, or 6. Its Chinese name “Qing Ming” literally means “Clear Brightness,” hinting at its importance as a celebration of Spring. Similar to the spring festivals of other cultures, Tomb Sweeping Day celebrates the rebirth of nature, while marking the beginning of the planting season and other outdoor activities.

Qing Ming Jie in Ancient Times
In ancient times, people celebrated Qing Ming Jie with dancing, singing, picnics, and kite flying. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the opening of life. In the capital, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate the renewing nature of spring. In the villages, young men and women would court each other.

The Tomb Sweeping Day as Celebrated Today
With the passing of time, this celebration of life became a day to the honor past ancestors. Following folk religion, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and more children.

Today, Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the sacrifices at a family’s home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland food. One theory is that since any number of ghosts rome around a grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the ancestors, and not be plundered by strangers.

Honoring Ancestors
Honoring ancestors begins with proper positioning of a gravesite and coffin. Experts in feng shui, or geomancy, determine the quality of land by the surrounding aspects of streams, rivers, trees, hills, and so forth. An area that faces south, with groves of pine trees creates the best flow of cosmic energy required to keep ancestors happy. Unfortunately, nowadays, with China’s burgeoning population, public cemetaries have quickly surplanted private gravesites. Family elders will visit the gravesite at least once a year to tend to the tombs.

While bland food is placed by the tombs on Qing Ming Jie, the Chinese regularly provide scrumptious offerings to their ancestors at altar tables in their homes. The food usually consists of chicken, eggs, or other dishes a deceased ancestor was fond of. Accompanied by rice, the dishes and eating utensils are carefully arranged so as to bring good luck. Sometimes, a family will put burning incense with the offering so as to expedite the transfer of nutritious elements to the ancestors. In some parts of China, the food is then eaten by the entire family.

Kites
Besides the traditions of honoring the dead, people also often fly kits on Tomb Sweeping Day. Kites can come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Designs could include frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, crabs, bats, and storks.

326 march

Tomorrow, March 26th (326, a popular Taiwanese way of labelling events, March=3 and 26th=26) the Taiwanese people will express their disapproval of China’s anti-secession bill.

Approximately 1 million people are hoping to come to the march, which is to be held in 10 different locations around the country.

The march is to show the Taiwanese people’s anger at the bill which was passed a few weeks ago, which more or less allows China to use military force if it sees fit.

You can read a story about the march at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2005/03/25/2003247647

This event could be quite big, and I am waiting to see how it turns out. This kind of event could get quite nasty. Report more after the event.

China’s anti-secession bill

You’re so lucky hearing from me so often.

Well, today it became official. China has passed an anti-secession bill, which means that it will be allowed to take military action if Taiwan attempts to claim independence.

There’s an article on the situation at CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/03/14/china.npc.law/index.html

A little about Taiwan’s turbulent history.

In 1895 Taiwan was taken over by the Japanese, they were terrible and ruled Taiwan until the 1945. Then it was taken back by the GuoMinDang (KMT), who had been in civil war with China since the 30’s. The Japanese forced everyone to learn Japanese and take Japanese names, people were also not permitted to speak Taiwanese, which was the dominant local language. People spyed on each other and reported each other to the authorities if others didn’t obey.

Well, in 1988 the first democratically elected persident came into power. The GuoMinDang won that time too, and for the first time, 5 years ago, another party, called the Green Party won.

One thing that was never made official was Taiwan’s status. During all this commotion, Taiwan never declared independence, despite all the people who ran here from China to escape in 1947.

Officially, Taiwan is a province of China. Taiwanese who go from Taiwan to China have to get a special, “Chinese resident in Taiwan Province” card to get in. But foreigners need a seperate visa for Taiwan (sometimes known as “The republic of China (ROC)”) and China (“The people’s republic of china”).

Taiwan goes about it’s business as though it is a seperate country, having it’s own government and having different laws to those of China. Taiwan’s internal affairs are not much like China’s, especially in regards to the right to express opinions and the like.

But there is a great feeling that Taiwan is a seperate country amongst the people of Taiwan. Many people have expressed hope that Taiwan would become independent. Until now there has been a kind of acceptance of Taiwan as a kind of strange case. China more of less let’s things be, as long as Taiwan doesn’t step too far out of line.

The issue is a matter of face, the whole Chinese relationship issue. China doesn’t want to give Taiwan up, and Taiwan wants to go on it’s own, neither party wants to give up their position.

With the new bill China has said that it might use force, military force, with Taiwan if it officially tries to break away from China. This is quite worrying as things to now have been left and left, without much happening, but this puts a strain on relationships a bit.

Hopefully things will go alright, who knows.

Oh, for some fun, compare these two articles about Taiwan’s history (I found these looking for a brief history of Taiwan).

This one written by a mainland Chinese person
http://www.china-un.ch/eng/zt/twwt/t88926.htm

And this one written by an American I think
http://www.worldrover.com/history/taiwan_history.html

Notice how the Chinese guy stands firm and makes clear his loyalty and opinion about Taiwan’s status.

Let’s see how the fun and games play out.

Another week goes by

I’ve been up to a little more this week than usual.

The weather From Monday to Thursday was fantastic, it was warm and sunny, and I got to wear baggies to school for the first time in quite a while, it was great.

Tuesday, my class and I went to the Taipei Zoo. I wore long pants on that day, but regretted it as the weather was hot. The Zoo is quite a cool place for the kids to go as there really is not too much nature to speak of in the big city, except for bugs. That said, when I look at the animals it must be extremely boring. I saw on the news recently that in order to get pandas in a Chinese Zoo to mate, they showed them TV shows of pandas mating. And it worked!

I had quite a lot of work to do, which I managed to get finished, which is a relief. It’s amazing how much work you can get done without the internet at work. No wonder companies try to keep their imployees off the computers quite often, or at least off the internet.

Friday, I went over to Clint and Sue’s house. I know Clint from when he worked at the JOY YongHe preschool for a while. He left, but we have had a little contact. One interesting thing was that Clint has an interest for internet related business stuff, which I am very much into, so even though I haven’t seen him for a while, that common interest stays on my mind.

Anyways, they are hosting an Alpha course – http://www.alphacourse.org at thier home. They invited Ava and I along, but just I ended up going. It was nice spending some time with some newer friends as I haven’t actually been out too much as of late.

Other good news, or small good news for me is that my website http://www.computer-buying-guide.com is nearly complete. I have to add some more content to it’s pages, but for the most part it’s complete. I will give it another two weeks or so before being completely OK.

Well, tomorrow brings in another week. Should be another relaxed one.

Hope you all have a wonderful one too. Love to you all.

I am not built for the cold

This past weekend was the most cold I have felt for an extremely long time. The temperatures got down to the single digits (whick is low for here, where it should almost be Spring). I was freezing.

There was an earthquake at about 3 o’clock on Sunday morning which shook things up a little and got Ava and I out of our very warm bed for a while.

The Taiwan Central Weather Bureau can be found at
http://www.cwb.gov.tw/V4e/index.htm
It gives all the details as earthquakes happen and is almost unaccessable when there is actually a quake.

This website has had an upgrade.

  • The blog script was upgraded to WordPress 1.5
  • I put the inner links at the top
  • And you can now post comments on all posts

The weather has thankfully taken a change for the warmer, which means I will try and wear shorts tomorrow.

Reminder to check out the blog at www.peterandava.com and check out all of our photos at www.peterandava.com/photos

To Peter

There are always quite a few sad things that happen in our life.

It’s hard to admit and walk through it but we’re lucky we have each other.

There are always quite a few troubles that affect and change our lives.

They really irritate and bother us but lucky we can always plan it again together.

Love Ava

Temple day in Tainan

On the weekend (2004-03-02) I went back to Ava’s home town to go and see something that her parents thought I should really go and see.

Ava goes to University on the weekends, but she thought it might be nice if I take her parents up on the offer and go down anyway to see this quite famous thing go.

So on Saturday morning I managed to book a seat on a very crowded train and take the 4 hour journey down South, followed by a bus ride that took another hour or so.

One funny thing is that often the food that Ava’s mom cooks for us I really can’t stomach. They eat every part of the chicken imaginable. I don’t fancy chicken neck, but they seem to think it’s great. But last time her mother found out that I don’t mind pizza too much. So within 10 minutes of arriving at their home, she had ordered a pizza from Dominoes.

Well that was enough to keep me stuffed well into the evening. So after I had finished we set off. Her dad and I.

What I was greeted by was something beyond what I could ever have imagined…Here’s a little background.

Every three years all the temples in an area, in this case a whole town, come together to hold a kind of traditional event, which no one so far has been able to tell me why. They all come together and for three day they carry their little gods in their carrying boxes and go and visit all of the temples in that town.

All in all their are 39 temples in their home towns vicinity, I never imagined their were so many.

Every group from every temple has some people at the front banging on their “gongs.” They are also followed by all the people who usually take care of matters at that temple and some people to push or carry around the little cart that the god from their temple rides in.

As they approach a temple the real stuff starts. It’s started off by a string of firecrackers. No, not those little ones you had as a kid, but ones that are about 10 times that size, which apparently scare off evil spirits and the like.

Along with these groups they often have groups of people who do special performances, which are traditional dances of sorts. There were some guys on stilts who did some fighting with swords at the entrance to the temple. There were some women who did another kind of dance. There were another group of men who did a Kung Fu display. On another note the group of men doing KungFu always do it in groups of 36, 72, or 108, but no one has told me the significance of this.

Back to the temple approach. When those guys come to the front of the temple they kind of run at the temple as though the god is trying to get into their temple. This is preceded by a loud banging on a very large drum, which gives a cool effect with the atmosphere.

As that god tries to enter the temple, it is confronted by someone from that temple who looks like they are in a kind of trance and being controlled by the god of that temple. When they approach, the temple protector comes in closer and shouts, at which the approaching god moves back. Once the approaching god moves back, the temple protector takes a piece of wood, covered in nails and whacks himself on his back, as though it was a terrible back scratcher. He takes three whacks and then the approaching god comes at him again. He shouts again and they move back. He then hits himself three times on the back in rapid succession. They do this ritual three times in total after which the approaching god backs down.

They then do a little prayer to the temple and move on with the procession.

NOTE: The whacking on the back maybe doesn’t sound too bad from what I have said here. But he really hits hard. I saw the blood dripping down his back, which they mopped up with “paper” money, which is paper with a print on it, which is burned to the gods.

That was probably the most freakish part of the whole event.

The next day on the Sunday we went to see the procession of children.

The kids are put up on pedastel, 108 of them, all in a really long train and are pulled along. The kid who sits at the front is the kid whose parents paid the most money and so on and so forth. They head around the town throwing candy at people who put their hands out for it.

I think the amount of preparation that goes into the event must be huge, many roads are blocked off as the procession is long and slow. It’s quite something to see, and when I remember to take my camera next time, 3 years from now, I will share them with you.

My new job so far

As of the end of January I started a new job.

Many people may know this already but I will restate it anyway for my friends who are not completely up to date on my goings on.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but it is at “Joy” franchise school. The ones I had been working at before were all owned by the same boss, who owns the whole company. This school is owned by a couple who have had it open for a few years. At this school I get paid as a full time teacher, which means I also get paid for holidays (not many of those though).

The new job has been nice in a few ways.

Firstly, I needed the mental break as I working for the branch schools I have become a bit disenchanted at how they ran things and how things were organized. I don’t think they were really run too badly, I just really thought that they should all fix the school and that everything should be better.

I have taken a far more proactive approach here at this school, which is easier to do as I can just talk to the boss who has the final say and is in fact very reasonable and nice. In the end I have almost complete control over what we do during our classtime. There are certain things that we still need to cover, but beyond that they trust you to get the work done.

Secondly, I have been using my time very well. I used to just waste away my lunchtimes looking at things on the internet and checking my email. This was a real waste. Now I use my lunch to plan ahead and to prepare for upcoming events. So I am better prepared, which pays off, as I then feel better about my class and so feel more inclined to want to plan. And in doing even more planning I feel even better about things, and so all my work gets done on time and I feel good about it.

So, it’s been very positive overall so far. It is amazing what a little proactivity, something I lack, helps things along.

My Uncle’s death

It’s been a while since I last wrote.

Two weeks ago, my uncle died. It was Wednesday, the 17th if I remember right.

That week was the first phonecall I’ve had from my mother for a while, as it’s too expensive to keep phoning, and we just email.

As she started to speak and told me she had bad news, the first thing on my mind was, “Mor-mor has passed away.” (She is my now 94 year old grandmother). I was a little shocked when she told me it was not my gran, but my uncle.

The sad part is that he is quite young, 50 or so, and that he committed suicide. He had been sufferring from bi-polar depression for at least the last 10 years or so. It has been quite a hard time for him, as well as his close family and friends.

Bi-polar depression is a different kind of depression where you go from very high highs, to very low lows. Instead of being in the pit of depression your body swings from good times down to the bad times and back up again. It is often a discease that needs ongoing medication.

He had a very hard time coping with it as the times when he was on the “high” nothing could go wrong and anything was possible. While when he hit a low, the wheels fell off and those times can be especially bad. And as he got older those highs and lows increased in intensity, so much as to make life quite difficult.

In the end, the sickness just became too much. May he rest in peace (thank God he was a born again believer)

It is a terrible thing for parents to have to bury their children, and I pray for my Gran and Grandpa, as this is really tough for them in their old age (both in their 80s). He was really loved by all of us. He will be sorely missed.