Amid MCO, Malaysians observe Qing Ming differently by performing prayers at home

A general view of the Kwong Tong Cemetery devoid of visitors on Qingming Festival Day, in Kuala Lumpur, April 4, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
A general view of the Kwong Tong Cemetery devoid of visitors on Qingming Festival Day, in Kuala Lumpur, April 4, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — In light of the movement control order (MCO), for the first time in 24 years, Lyn Ng will not be able to visit her late father’s grave for Qing Ming or tomb-sweeping day.

It is something that Ng looks forward to each year since she lost her father when she was two years old.

“Normally we will visit my father’s grave, and my mother will also cook a meal for him at home and place in front of his ancestral tablet.

“I feel bad of course, because this is the only time I get to go to the cemetery to visit my late dad, but he is in my heart.

“I believe he understands and he too will not want us to go now either,” Ng said when contacted by Malay Mail.

Prior to the movement control order (MCO) enforced, Ng had purchased bus tickets to return home on March 28 to be with her family in Johor.

However after the MCO was announced by the government as an effort to reduce the spreading of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), Ng had to cancel her plans to travel home to visit her ancestors including her grandparents.

Since the MCO was announced, the government has discouraged Qing Ming Festival observers to conducts their prayers at home.

“My first thought was, oh no, I will miss my chance to ‘see’ them – dad, grandpa and grandma – grandparents passed on only in recent years.

“But, I am glad that the government started to implement the MCO. But I didn’t expect it to be extended,” she added.

Ng added that her family, as a safety precaution have decided to offer prayers and food offerings at home, instead of going to the cemetery.

Explaining further, Ng said Qing Ming apart from offering prayers and food offering, it is a time for families to gather and reflect on the good days they shared with their departed loved ones.

“As a family, we reminisce about the good days we shared with family members who are now gone and pay our respect.

“But more often I feel it’s a form of ‘medicine’ for me — that I finally get to see someone that I have been missing for so long.

“It also serves as a reminder to me, that they have loved me so much so I have to do much better and never forget about the things they said, and the close relationship that we had,” she added.

In China, although the situation of Covid-19 is gradually improving, its government has advised the public to stay away from the cemeteries and maintain social distancing.

While some cemeteries allow people to come provided they made a booking, other cemeteries are off-limits.

China is however one of the few countries including Hong Kong and Taiwan to pioneer making available online prayer offerings.

This was to accommodate those who were unable to return home to observe Qing Ming.

Li Yan, an accounts executive said while this is now also available in Malaysia, she cannot picture how it is done.

“To me, you don’t have to necessarily go to the cemetery. You can still pray at home.

“The only thing you can’t do is to sweep the tomb. That can be done later after the MCO is lifted,” she said.

When asked if it makes sense to be offering prayers online, Li said some do this to appease themselves rather than the dead.

“It is more of appeasing the living ones rather than the dead ones.

“To me, it has become an obligation and to be able to offer prayers online, it would reduce guilt for the living ones, as they have done what they are obliged to do,” she added.

Due to rules set during the MCO, those who are offering food to their ancestors for Qing Ming have decided to cook, said Lai Yi Ting.

Lai, however, said it was shocking that the food items especially roast chicken sold at restaurants in her neighbourhood were all wiped out yesterday.

“Normally people would offer whole chicken, or pig, or roast pork. It depends on the family. Different food items have different significance,” said Lai.

She added that not all Buddhists are required to go to the temple.

“Some have their own ‘pantang’ (believes) so they won’t go to the grave.

“For those who are cremated, they will go to the temple where the ashes are kept,” Lai added.

In a report by BBC, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Chinese nationals have now resorted to making offerings online and some even ‘clean’ graves online.

According to BBC, “cloud tomb online” allows people to virtually clean graves and make offerings to spirits.

Some websites also offer people the choice to light a candle, burn money and offer items such as Chinese rice wine and beer.

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