Today is a major festival in China and if you can’t go outside to celebrate it as usual (because of the virus) you can perform your duties online.
It is Qing Ming or Tomb Sweeping Day, the occasion people visit their ancestors’ graves to tidy the tomb, offer them their favourite food and drink, and burn incense.
Rising temperatures and increasing rain signal the start of the busy season for farmers so the first step for families is to make sure their ancestors will bless their efforts. They visit the family graves (usually on mountain sides) and respectfully request the ancestors’ cooperation.
But what do you do when there is a pandemic shutdown?
Today you can make your offerings online and do ‘cloud tomb sweeping’.
Some sites provide your own family ’mourning hall’ where family can log on and join in expressing concern. They can even light a candle.
Other sites provide on-line cleaning services which, I presume, means someone will go and clean the tomb for you and not just the webpage. In Shanghai, 87,000 signed up in the first week on one site.
In Wuhan there have been over 2,500 deaths since the epidemic began so the Day will have added poignancy.
One man posted, ‘Old traditions are deeply rooted, but it is quite understandable that we cannot visit the cemeteries because we are in a special period. I will pay virtual respect and visit the tomb once the epidemic ends.‘