The Myths of Reciprocal Chinese Ancestral Worshiping 

Traditional Chinese is obsessed with ancestral worshiping as most believed those 7 feet under had an overwhelming influences over the living either for good health and prosperity or calamities and sufferings. Its explains why legacy dynastic emperors spared no efforts in construction of their afterlife palaces with extravagant resources in man power, precious collectible and preparation  of prime “Feng Shui” burial sites.  Some went to the extents of having their live soldiers and servants to be buried together for his disposal in the other side and having hundreds if not thousand  of craftsman blindfolded on the way to the construction sites and even having them silenced after completion in order to keep the exact location confidential. Ironically, modern tomb raiders were taking advantage of the same “Feng Shui” principles and legacy literature to identify and had been raiding the tombs of the emperors or wealthy families for valuable belongings buried together with the individual hundreds of thousand of years before.  In other words, Chinese believed those who passed aways have just simply gone to the other dimensions and will continue to maintain the same earthly lifestyle and will take good if not better care of their descendants as good as how the livings have been taking care of them in offerings of regular sustenance of fundamental and at times lavish comforts . 

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart—Confucius

In fact, most Chinese believed in continuing of the past, present and to the future and its of paramount important to offer their deceased ancestors living sustenance with foods, drinks, clothing and even hell notes for their disposal in the other world, burial sites with geographical advantages of front sea view and top of the mountain serve as consolidating point of natural fortunes which will overflow to the livings for wealth and abundant life, it involved a complicated formula with different style of Feng Shui master approaches and its not uncommon to have descendants who fair poorly in life confronting one another siblings for relocation of the tomb for better fortunes.  Some of the principles of Feng Shui carry scientific arguments; avoid  low laying ground for risk of flooding, facing east for better morning Sun and so whereas the rest are mainly a product of thousand of years of Confucius belief and cultural practice fulfilling the psychological needs and desires of the livings.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford

Its the thousand of years of filial piety of cultural values in accumulation of beliefs in reincarnation of mainly Taoist practice combining with psychological reinforcement explaining this myth of reciprocal social behaviours in ancestral offering and expectation of favours in return; some even disallows married daughters to take part in the ceremony fearing of “diluting” the good fortunes for the Sons offspring of the families. Being the first to “sweep” the tombs during the tomb sweeping day would also bring greater blessings. Disappointment and setbacks in life continue to encourage descendants to look for answers from their deceased elderly for better fortunes and reassurance. 

Respect yourself and others will respect you.—Confucius

Influence of Filial piety:  The extend of filial piety one demonstrated reflect one’s social standings in the community; nothing short of 100% submission to their elders is expected, unique in Chinese traditions which was a by products of thousand of years of Emperors preferably hierarchical social orders to have their people to serve them as how they serve their parents.  As a results, no efforts were spared for an extravagant and elaborate funerals, cemetery and family altars as part of the practice of filial piety as its an act of socially encouraged and very much endorsed on; 3 years of mourning and reflections and all other major ceremonial events like wedding and holidays are strictly prohibited fearing of repercussion of “bad” things happening. Rites are dutifully performed  at annual Ghost Festival and Tomb Sweeping Festival for greasing of the palm of the after world to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased and ancestors worshiping. Being filial hold highest regards in Chinese community, being well respected and praised on.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.–Confucius

Psychological reinforcements: Its part of sell fulfilling prophecy; Chinese who converted to mainstream religions like Christianity and Islam who didn’t practice the same reciprocal ancestral worshiping are doing probably as well as it could possibly get, its up to which belief systems one would like to engage and it’s applicable to them. In addition, its part of legacy of traditions emphasising on the important of family loyalty, dedication, obligation, part of something larger than themselves, including drawing energy from their deceased family members who they believed to have a continued existences, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living especially of their own offspring. The accompanying strong faith and confidence will therefore help one to achieve greater prosperity; as a matter of fact, they owe it to themselves more than their beloved ancestors for their significant accomplishment not unlike the modern ritual one perform for the calming and self-assuring effects one had before facing a challenging tasks. The ritual could well  be a prayer, singing a song or writing to set one frame of mind into something one is familiar and comfortable and feeling good about oneself; 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Summary:  Filial piety as an indispensable virtue is well regarded in their peers of respects, obedience and high moral grounds of one’s parents, elders and ancestors, ensuring the ancestors’ continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living, it serve to cultivate kinship values like filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage, together with the lack of mainstream faith to address the questions of afterlife, Chinese developed a system of myth of reciprocal worshiping of their ancestral spirits for the blessing of prosperity of the living, after all, that’s what’s family are for, taking care of each other needs now and even well in the other world. Its all about which belief system one chooses reaffirming a principle that has served Chinese well for centuries. Reciprocal Chinese ancestral worshipping therefore fulfil an important cultural and practical roles in strengthening the core values of a family taking up the glorifying duties of filial piety looking after each others and pledging of one loyalty to one another, believing in a system that meaningfully help one another to achieve greater things in life.

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”― Lilo and stitch

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One thought on “The Myths of Reciprocal Chinese Ancestral Worshiping 

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