This is something that I should posted before I left Taiwan back in March. I did not get around to it then, so I will finish it and post it now before I get started on my more recent travels.
On March 17, 2013, we went to visit the Lu ancestor’s grave sites in Fengyuan, Taiwan. This was my third visit to this place. One of the odd things about this grave site (from my Western perspective) is that it is located right behind a factory. I realize that it was a grave site before the factory was built on the former rice field. Still, it is an odd juxtaposition to have a large, impressive grave site behind a factory instead of in a cemetery.
The holiday to remember and honor departed relatives is called “grave sweeping” instead of Memorial Day in Asia. It is celebrated on the first weekend in April, or about two weeks before that if you are Haka (as the Lu family is.) It involves cleaning up the grave site and bringing ceremonial offerings to honor the ancestors. This clean up often involves sweeping, as the name of the holiday indicates.
There is also a small stone marker honoring Tu Di Gong, the local earth spirit, near the ancestor’s graves. We left some food offerings here also.
There are two big grave sites at this location in Fengyang. One of them has a cross on top of the stone pavilion. I was told that this was added later, when this branch of the Lu family converted to Christianity.
We also placed offerings in front of this stone marker. I have never been given I clear explanation of who this stone marker honors.
There were many other relatives there from the Lu family members still in Taiwan. Some of them I knew, and many I was meeting for the first time.
I thought that the umbrella wa cute touch! It was a hot, sunny day, so someone decided that the ancestor would appreciate the shade from the sun! Most of the food offerings on the table would be eaten later for lunch. After the ceremony, all the food offerings were taken back to the Lu House, and eaten by everyone who was at the grave sweeping
One of the traditions is to scatter paper money around the gravesite, and to gather it up and burn it at the end of the ceremony. One of the problems with doing this was that there was a lot of dry grass next to the stone of the grave site. So the paper money fire spread and threatened to get out of control. Fortunately, someone had brought a package of bottled water, and many bottles were quickly opened and poured onto the fire to contain it!
There is a big rice field behind the grave sites, opposite the factory buildings. This is likely what surrounded the site many years ago (over 100) when the graves were placed here.
After lunch, we drove out to a spot in the countryside to visit another Lu ancestor grave site. We parked at the end of a road and walked up it. That is a small roadside temple that Harmony and Jeff’s uncle and aunt are walking past.
We walked for a long time up this road.
The road eventually became a driveway up to a farm house.
From the farm house, we took a path uphill through an orange tree grove.
Finally, up near the top of the hill, among the orange trees, we arrived at the site. There were just two small stone markers. Jeff told me that these were the grave sites of the original Lu ancestors, who migrated to Taiwan from mainland China about 250 years ago. His family still owns this land, and they lease it to the farm family who maintain the house and take care of the orange tree orchard. I believe that his family will always want to keep this land because the original ancestor graves are here. This reminded me of the many small graves that are on family land in the USA.
There was just the five of us here; Jeff’s uncle and aunt, Harmony, Jeff, and me. The food offerings were ba wun and oranges, which we later ate for a snack. I sprinkled the paper money around the grave marker, but I did not try to gather it up and burn it afterwards.
This was a very interesting day in Taiwan. I learned a lot about Jeff’s family during the grave sweeping, and met some relatives in Taiwan that I had not met before.