Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hanging the Family Painting - an important rite of ancestors

Family History is an important part of family of John & Roslyn Kuzmich. It is much more than a mere hobby and proved to be a chord of unity in our family through the years. We are not isolated in the moment but profoundly connected to the generations who preceded us and sacrificed for our good. This legacy is worth living up to and passing on.

Family History is an honored aspect of families in China. Tracy gave a presentation that should not have surprised me, but it did. Americans have family reunions all the time, mostly in the summer at
fun gathering spots. Tracy's report gave a new perspective to the tradition of family reunions.

During Spring Festival, every district of China have rites to heaven and ancestors. For sacrifice offering to heaven, the rite has become simple nowadays. However, as time passed, the rites to commemorate ancestors persisted. I'd like to introduce a very important rite in Shandong Province to commemorate ancestors during Spring Festival.

The rite includes a series of activities and the core of it is hanging the Family Painting on the North wall of the central room.

The Family Painting is a very big painting on which is a big Siheyuan quadrangle with house on the four sides is painted. It is a precious and holy thing for every family. It is past down by a family's earliest ancestor generation by generation, and only the family's oldest son has the right to keep it.

On the top of the painting there paints the main hall of Siheyuan, where an elder couple sit sedately, waiting for their descendants to pay a visit to them.

On the bottom of the painting, there are two doors. Out of the door stand a group of guests who are descendants of the family and they are all high ranking government officials.

The most important part is on the middle of the painting. There is a set of grid. From top to the bottom , all family ancestors' names are put into those cells. 

There is a pair of couplet on both sides of the painting. The content of the couplet is varied from family to family. They are domestic instructions which are passed down by ancestors.

Before hanging the family painting, a lot of preparations should be done; such as sweeping the dust, pasting Spring Couplets and laying a table and putting fruits, chicken, fish, and decorated cakes on it.

On the last day of the lunar year, all the males of a family must drive to the graveyard to invite those past ancestors back home to celebrate the Spring Festival together.

Back from the graveyard, there comes the most important part -- getting the painting hanged on our central room. After that done, it is believed that all our ancestors have been back home, sitting around the table, watching us, smiling.

Everyone has to stay up late on New Years' Eve. During that time, al the males have to go to patriarch's house where a super big Family Painting with thousands ancestors names on it is hanged there to worship and kowtow to our ancestors.

On the first day of Chinese lunar year, we set off firecrackers to send our ancestors away. Then the family painting is taken down carefully.

Then we have to wait another one year to have a reunion with those great and kind ancestors.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is soooo interesting! I especially enjoy the comments about your students and that you share some of their presentations. Next year I will be teaching oral English at Qingdao University for the BYU China Teachers Program-quite or nearly by accident.!.. Could I correspond with you about lesson/conversation ideas? Thank you so much, Meghan Schwanke