Myths And Taboos During Qingming Festival

Is it okay to perform Qingming prayers on a Broken Day (por yat in Cantonese) in the Chinese Almanac? This is one of the concerns of the Chinese who dutifully go to their ancestors’ graves annually to pay respects.

April 7, being a Sunday, is convenient for most people to visit the graves for Qingming (actual date is April 5). But according to the Chinese Almanac, it is a Broken Day, which some Chinese deem as inauspicious for prayers. However, those who are not superstitious will still flock to the graves.

Hoo explained that Broken Day is when the elements of the month’s and day’s Earth-branches clash with each other. In the Chinese Almanac, every 12 to 13 days, there will be a Broken Day.

Said Hoo: “During a Broken Day, it is believed the elements are not in a stable or auspicious state. Hence, it is not recommended to perform major events, such as moving into a new house, opening ceremony for a new company, ground-breaking, marriage, delivery of newborn or marriage registration.

“People believe that on such a day, more inauspicious incidents could be triggered.”

Hoo clarified that since Qingming does not involve any such major event, people need not worry if they select a Broken Day (like April 7) to visit the graves. Most importantly, the selected date is convenient to all family members.

Hoo also broached the subject about the taboos during Qingming.

He disagreed that small children should not be brought to the graves for prayers. Also, he reckoned it should not be a taboo to restrict people of certain zodiac signs to go for Qingming if their signs clash with the day of the prayers.

Wearing cheerful colours, even red, when visiting graves is allowed while all black (a mourning colour) is not encouraged.

“One should be cheerful on this occasion and spread positive qi (energy) by wearing cheerful colours.”

When burning paper gifts to the departed, try not to stoke the offerings. Some people believe that this act could damage the “goods” by the time they reach the ancestors.


The living pays homage to their departed ones with steamed sponge cakes in the hope that they will be blessed with prosperity.

Some people, Hoo observed, would place a stone or brick on a piece of prayer paper on the tombstone to indicate that the grave had been visited.

He said: “This is not necessary because the stone/brick may give rise to ‘pressure’ on the descendants for one whole year.”

“You can leave a piece of fatt koh (steamed sponge cake) or some prayer papers at the grave as a sign that prayers have been completed.”

Some people have an aversion to partake prayer foods at the grave sites. But generally, most Chinese families do not have this taboo.

“Actually, the Chinese regard these foods as being blessed by their ancestors and are encouraged to eat them,” he said. Leaving leftover prayer foods at the grave is not advisable.

He said: “One may invite trouble if there are wild animals, such as monkeys, which might come to feed, mess up and destroy the tombs.”


Coloured papers are scattered on a grave in Xiao En Memorial Park to appease the dead.

The scattering of prayer papers at the back of the grave is considered auspicious.

After the prayers, family members should clear all the rubbish to keep the surroundings clean before leaving. However, Hoo does not encourage the practice of sticking small triangular, colourful flags over the grave as it is deemed inauspicious.

He said: “It’s just like poking the ancestral remains with many needles. Thus, it not respectful and should be avoided.”

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Last modified on Tuesday, 02 April 2019 13:52

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