Every year, during the Chung Yeung Festival vacation on the ninth

LE096 Traditional Chinese Festivals and Customs
Be Careful of Hill Fires during Chung Yeung Festival
Every year during the Chung Yeung Festival on the ninth day of the ninth lunar
month, throngs of grave-sweepers head for the cemeteries in Hong Kong or China.
There are also those who hike to the higher regions or travel to China on vacation.
During the Chung Yeung Festival in 2002, the Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent
Cemetery saw an influx of grave-sweepers arriving early in the morning with their
family members, taking plenty of food along with them. On this morning alone, about
130,000 citizens paid respect at the family ancestor graves. However, according to an
operator of a flower shop close to a cemetery in Kowloon City, business was poorer
than in the previous years.
To make it more convenient for citizens visiting the cemetery, the police began to
undertake road closures and traffic diversion early in the morning. Except for the
emergency vehicles, no other automobiles were allowed in. However, when some
grave-sweepers arrived at 6 am, they were unhappy with the traffic arrangements and
started disputes with the police. Only when the police allowed them to drive in and
ferried some visitors in police vehicles into the cemetery did the disputes end.
Concurrently, many other citizens also traveled to China for grave sweeping or
vacation. In 2002, 220,800 entries at the Lo Wu customs point were recorded. In
addition, the Fire Services Department received 99 reports of hill fire incidents, most
of which occurred in the New Territories.
The Chung Yeung Festival came from a legend whereby a man called Huan Jing from
the Ru Nan province (historical era could not be determined) who consulted a divine
deity called Fei Changfang about an epidermic that regularly breaks out along the
banks of River Ru, killing many people. As advised by Fei Changfang, Huan Jing
took all his fellow villagers, both young and old, with him to a nearby mountain on
the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. Apart from distributing a medicinal cornel leaf
to each of them, he also made his fellow villagers drink a mouthful of chrysanthemum
wine. He then returned to the village with the green dragon sword presented to him by
Fei Chang fang and killed the demon spreading the epidemic. From then on, the
Chung Yeung Festival has been commemorated from generation to generation.
According to "Miscellaneous Tales of the Western capital" by Hung Ge, the customs
of ascending heights, plucking medicinal cornel leaves and drinking chrysanthemum
wine have been in vogue since the reign of Emperor of Han Gao Zhu. In the southern
Chinese provinces such as Guangdong, grave-sweeping has also become a custom of
the Chung Yeung Festival.
The custom of hill climbing should be encouraged as it provides a good opportunity
for everyone to exercise and take in the sights of nature. The ritual of grave-sweeping
also enables us to express our remembrances to our ancestors. However, one should
be extra careful when starting a fire in the open in order to avoid causing hill fires.
(Various Hong Kong Newspapers 2002/10/15)
Be Careful of Hill Fires during Chung Yeung Festival
LE096 Traditional Chinese Festivals and Customs
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Discussing Traditional Chinese Festivals and Customs
Civic Education