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Chinese cemeteries and Ching Ming
(Qing Ming or Cheng Beng)

"Cemeteries, graveyards... can we talk about something happier then Chinese cemeteries?" Many people do not feel comfortable even thinking about graveyards.

Chinese grave on a Sitiawan cemeteryIn the West visiting cemeteries on a Sunday afternoon is not an activity that people do with pleasure. It's mostly to visit the grave of dead relatives but definitely not for fun.

In the West, there's a bit of a taboo on visiting cemeteries. This started more or less in the "Romantic Period", the mid 1800's.

Before those days, it was quite common people visited on a Sunday afternoon the graves of the dead relatives. Death became a taboo subject. Talking about death became searching for troubles.

So, why would you visit a graveyard on your holiday? It could be you want to remember something of World War II. So you may and you visit Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai Bridge in Thailand. You may visit the graveyards in Northern France where many World War I soldiers lie. It could be out of historical perspective. But Chinese cemeteries? Why?

Chinese cemeteries
Idyllic landscapes on the graves as a memory to the Chinese homeland

Well, to be honest with you, there's something to tell about the Chinese cemeteries in this part of Malaysia. Chinese graveyards are different from other graveyards. It has a lot to do with the way Chinese people look at death. Many Chinese consider death simply as "a different state of being". The dead are still with us and keep an eye on us. And even the dead have their own needs.

Ching Ming or Qing Ming in Seri Manjung

Ching Ming (Qing Ming, Cheng Beng)

A good example is the Chinese festival Ching Ming. Ching Ming is held on the day of the Third Moon 105 days after the Winter Solstice. It is also known as the Grave-Sweeping or Spring Remembrance Day.

Offerings at the Seri Manjung Chinese cemeterie

Offerings at the Seri Manjung Chinese cemetery

Ching Ming literally means "clear and bright". It's the time of the year when families visit the graves of their ancestors to clean the graveside and pay their respects. It’s common for families to make offerings of rice, fruit and wine to ensure their loved ones have enough food and drink in the afterlife.

Chinese cemeteries in Seri Manjung

Some families burn incense and paper money by the gravesides, believing that the smoke rises to the afterworld and can be used by their ancestors.

Chinese people all over the world care much for their dead relatives. In many houses you will find little altars sometimes with pictures of the dead relatives. The dead are worshipped (but they're not considered to be gods, don't make that mistake!) and asked for certain favors.

Ching Ming or Qing Ming in Seri Manjung

Since the dead relatives are supposed to help the living with all kinds of things, a grave must be beautiful too. Ancestor worshipping is an important part of Chinese culture all over the world.

The Chinese spend a lot of money on preparation for their death. It is obvious not everybody is able to spend thousands of dollars (or Euros if you want) on graves. Getting a luxury grave is no longer within the budget of many Chinese in Malaysia (and in many other parts of the world).

Burning paper money for the deceased
Burning paper money for the deceased

Not only the family has to organize the grave in advance, also all kinds of other preparations, prayers and offerings has to be completed before the grave is ready for burial.

It does happen, actually quite often, somebody dies and get a temporary grave. This grave is only in use for the time the real tomb is ready. With a lot of ceremony and offerings, the person then is moved with a full ceremony to his/her last resting place.

Chinese tombstone

What is no longer easy possible for Chinese in other parts of Malaysia, is still possible here around Pangkor and on the mainland in Seri Manjung and Sitiawan. Compared to other places in Malaysia, a grave is reasonable priced. Therefore you will find in this part of Perak quite some beautiful graveyards.

Details of a Chinse grave in Sitiawan

However for more interesting cemeteries you have to go to the surrounding areas of Sitiawan and Seri Manjung. Graves are big and typical Chinese. Many graves have beautiful tiles with paintings of landscapes that reminds them of the land they originate from.

The uniqueness of the graves is their beauty. The love the Chinese people have for their relatives is not limited to when they are alive. It goes beyond death and the graves show this.

Typical Chinese titles at gravesAnother interesting thing at the graveyards is that not just Buddhist Chinese people lay here. Some graves are from Christian Chinese.

Although maybe Christian, these Chinese still carry with them the traditions of their forefathers in building graves and they keep the tradition high.

So, where will you find these graveyards? And how many are there?

At Pulau Pangkor itself there's no big Chinese cemetery. However, you will find some graves on the way North leaving Sungai Pinang Kecil (SPK). Just outside SPK on the hillside you'll find a smaller sized cemetery.

For more significant cemeteries, you have to go to Seri Manjung and Sitiawan.

Chinese grave in Sitiawan

Seri Manjung
Traditional picturing at atomb in Seri manjungWhen you stay at Pangkor the nearest graveyard is located on the way to Sitiawan. Take the road to Sitiawan from Lumut. After about 6 km out of Lumut there's a big graveyard on your right site. The place is technically called Pundut but it's part of Seri Manjung.

The cemetery is located on a hill slope. It's a very big cemetery. You will find all kinds of tombs with different styles of paintings on the tombs. The picturing of the tombs on the photo on the right, is much more traditional then you will find on most of the tombs. There's no objections to walk around the cemetery.

Entrance of aChinese cemetary in Kampong KohIn Sitiawan there's quite a significant Chinese population. Obviously, you will find some graveyards in the Sitiawan area. There are two big ones just out of the town.

The first one is on the way to Ipoh. Take the road out of Lumut and follow the direction Ipoh for about 12 km. You will pass 4 traffic lights. The 4th traffic light is the road to Sitiawan. A few hundred meters after this crossroad you will find on your left hand a big Chinese cemetery.

The second cemetery is a bit further away. Take the road to Sitiawan until you arrive at the center of the town. Here's a crossing. Follow the direction Teluk Intan and go into Kampong Koh. Now from here it's slightly complicated. In Kampong Koh, keep an eye for a board saying Pasar Awam Kampong Koh (Public Market). It's in the middle of Kampong Koh, second traffic lights.

Go left and follow the road for about 4 km. You'll see on your right hand a water tower. Opposite of the water tower is a big Chinese cemetery.

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