Ching Ming Chiet

Ching Ming Ji is a period to remember, honour and pay respect to one’s deceased ancestors and family members. It reinforces filial piety in Chinese society by getting them to make special effort to visit the cemetery to pay their respects to the spirits of their dead ancestors.

Ching Ming literally means “clear and bright” and refers to the weather at the time of the year when most families go to visit their family graves. It falls in early spring and the main activity is the “sweeping of the graves”. The family graves are cleaned of weeds and some repaint the inscription. Incense is lit along with red candles. Offerings are made steamed whole chicken; a piece of roast pork; bowls of rice; wine and fruits. The Hakkas also offer fish (either whole or fish balls) along with other things. The offerings are part of three live things called sam sien – from the sea (fish), from the earth (pork) and from the air (chicken). Some Cantonese also have the custom of offering favorite food items of the deceased and even the favorite brand of cigarette if the person was a smoker.

Fake paper money and sheets of kite paper in different colours are burnt to represent suits of clothing for the spirits. This ensures that the spirits are well provided for in their life in the after-world.

The whole family (including the littlest ones) kneel down and offer their respect to the spirits. They press their hands together and move it up and down in a gesture of respect.

To be practical, this occasion is extended 10 days before and after the actual day. Among some dialect groups, one month is allocated for “sweeping the graves”.

Legend of Ching Ming

In 600 B.C. in Shanxi province, lived a man by the name of Jie Zi Dui. He became a hero when he saved his ailing master’s life by serving him with a piece of flesh from his own leg. In gratitude, the Lord wanted to reward Jie by making him a minister in his court but Jie declined choosing to lead a secluded life with his mother in the mountains.

In order to force Jie out of the mountain, the Lord ordered the mountain to be burnt down. But he underestimated the stubbornness of Jie who chose to get burnt to death than get out of the mountain. Once the lord realized this, he was remorseful. He ordered all fires to be put out on Jie’s death anniversary and all families were to go to the hill-side and worship on this date. Therefore began the “cold food feast” because no food could be cook since no fire could be lit. In Calcutta, this practice of “putting out the fire” is not practiced but the Indian Chinese families do go to the cemeteries to tend to the graves of the ancestors.

Ching Ming is observed any time between 5th March to 5th April. Also, this is one of the two occasions when the huiguans / associations and surname associations hold a banquet (community dinner) for their members. The other occasion is during siu yee (yue laan festival) in the seventh moon.

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Tien Hou Maid Temple

Located behind the Chinatown Market, there is a chinese temple dedicated to the goddess Tien Hou (Queen of Heaven), Kun Se Sin(Lady in white of Buddhism), Tu Teh Chun (God and goddess of well being and happiness) and many others. According to the writing on the board, this temple was built by Leong Chin and seven others in the year 1858.

By the year 1885 ‘Chee Yee Thong’ joined in to lend support, but, it took many more years of hard work and devotion from them to put the Chinese Temple back to its place in the year 1908.

After years of neglect, in the year 1977 Chung Yee Tong spearheaded the drive to renovate the temple, with the help of donations from devotees and well wishers.

In 1999 the Lim Brothers, Chung Yee Tong and Mr. Lee renovated the temple again. Since then, every year on 23rd of 3rd month, 2nd of 2nd month and 19th of 2nd month (according to the chinese calendar) a group of devoted ladies has been celebrating the birth of Our Goddess Tin Hou, Fu Teh Chun and Kun Se Sin respectively in the temple. This has kept our culture and religion alive.Chances Are video

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Ling Liang High School

There is nothing accidental about the story of Rev. and Mrs. T. David Lamb because it documents the claim of a sovereign God upon the Tlives of two obedient servants. God’s call uprooted them from their native Shanghai, China and flung them into uncertain surroundings in a strange culture. Theirs is a story of faith that the sovereign God who called them to Calcutta would be with them at all time assuring them of His presence. Rev. and Mrs. Lamb understood their God’s ordained mission to the approximately 25,000 Chinese in the city of Calcutta. They arrived in Calcutta on April 25,1949 with the vision of preaching the gospel and providing English education to the Chinese community.

After twelve years of faithful service, often preaching in street corners and market places, teaching poor children in the Gospel Hall, the Ling Liang Church and Ling Liang High School were dedicated at P-7 Hide Lane, Calcutta. That the edifice still stands today is a testimony of the faith of the founders and the faithfulness of God who blessed them. The Grace Ling Liang Church and Grace Ling Liang English School were dedicated more than a decade later on January 14, 1973.

Both schools are affiliated to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, New Delhi. There are more than 1400 students in each of the two schools with students appearing for the annual ISC (XII) and ICSE (X) held by the council. The schools have already produced, doctors, engineers, nurses, pastors, missionaries and professionals in other fields demonstrating that the work of the Lambs have produced fruit and will not be in vain.

The two churches continue to faithfully serve God even though the Chinese community has shrunk rapidly over the past decade and continues to shrink further with the community preferring to immigrate. Sunday schools for teens and children and worship services are held every Sunday at the two churches as we continue to look up to God for guidance in the years ahead.

With the passing away of Rev. David Lamb in Centerville, Ohio on November 2, 2001 the founders of the Ling Liang Churches and Schools in Calcutta are no more. Mrs. Mary Lamb was called home to be with God in 1994. But their memories and their vision remain in the hearts and minds of thousands of people who have been blessed by the faithfulness of the Lambs of God.

Note: The first paragraph is adapted from the book ‘Light in the Black Hole’ by Norman B. Rohrer. The book is about the life and ministry of the Lambs. By, Pastor Clifford C.Li Pastor, The Ling Liang Churches in Calcutta Chinese Schools, Clubs & Temples.

Address: P7, Hide Lane, Kolkata-700012

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Yue Laan Cheet

The Chinese language makes a clear distinction between “ancestor’s spirits” & “ghosts”. Ancestors are known as “jo sin” or the “former holy founders”. They, jo sin are the guardian spirits who protects and blesses the earthly family. But ghosts are “kwi” – the spirits or ghosts, they are the evil spirits who if not satisfied can cause a lot of damage to people. There are a great numbers of ghosts: some were unlucky enough to have all descendants die out, some died without children, some have been unable to reach the world of the dead since they had no proper funeral, yet others are unable to get food, paper clothing & even spirit money even though they have descendants. These are the deprived dead. Unsatisfied, they are “dangerous” and therefore needs to be appeased.

For the people on earth, the Seventh Moon is a especially worrying time. This is when the gates of the underworld are opened & ghosts are free to roam whenever & wherever they like. These ghosts need offerings of the same gifts that are given to ancestors & gods in other times. They also demand that they be entertained with several nights & days of opera.

Siu Yee: “Burning Clothes”
Families offer their individual offerings and small clubs, associations, surname clubs also make their offerings to the ghosts. Many of the families get out on the streets at night (the time and the place where the ghosts are more likely to be on the prowl) and they burn suits of paper clothes and fake paper money. They put up a tray with the usual goodies for the Gods fruits, food and sweets. After the Gods have had their fill, then comes the part that the children love best. Coins (the real stuff, not the fake paper ones); fruits and sweets are thrown into the air as symbolic of the offering to the ghosts and children have to scramble for the goodies. After the ceremony and prayers are over, there is usually a special family dinner. The associations and clubs and surname groups have a banquet together. This is the second occasion for such a banquet, the first being the “grave tending festival” of Ching Ming in the third moon.

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Si Fu Tan

Si Fu Tan

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(or birthday of the master) is a feast exclusively celebrated by carpenters and blacksmiths. In Calcutta, the Cantonese carpenters and ship builders celebrate this feast with celebration dinners after paying respect to Lu Pan. Probably because of this divine intervention in their trade, the Cantonese Carpenters have a good reputation for quality work and is much sought after by a select clientele. They are known to have had a hand in building the tramways, the docks, railway interiors and interiors of many famous buildings.

Lu Pan: The patron saint of carpenters & Builders
Many centuries ago, the son of a man named Pan lived in the ancient kingdom of Lu in modern Shantung District, hence the name Lu Pan. By the time he was 40, he became the most well known carpenter in his day. He then took up the study of alchemy and became so good at it that he got the reputation of having miraculous powers.

From repairing the pillars of Heaven which were on the verge of collapse to building a palace for the Queen Mother to making a wooden kite on which he could fly (like the Wright brothers), Lu Pan acquired a formidable reputation. Carpenters in Canton therefore looked to Lu Pan as their role model and indeed he was a worthy master to worship. Lu Pan had such powers that he did not die but was said to have simply vanished into the sky leaving behind his axe and saw. He remains an inspiration for construction workers, carpenters and builders. Before starting any major project, they offer their prayers to Lu Pan and pray for inspiration in their work. On Sifutaan, all Cantonese carpenters and builders remember and pray for Lu Pan-like skills in their trade. In the evening, they all gather together for a community meal.

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Nam Soon Church

The name “Church” is a misnomer for the Temple for Quan Ti. In Chinese it can only be translated as a club or association. The original founders must have been a remarkable lot to establish the club, arrange for the ebony images of the gods and other temple implements to be brought from the motherland. However these are usually donated by the founder members themselves, whose name are still perfectly visible and preserved on each item. Additional monetary donations are engraved on some five pieces of large slate slabs, for all to see.

The club was originally formed for the members of the Nan Hai together with Phan Yu and Shun Tak provinces, or whose ancestors originate from these areas, where the customs are more or less similar or compatible, but are for men only. Wives and daughters must depend on the menfolk’s memberships whenever there are functions held. All are welcome to worship the spirits of the gods installed, and many do come on festive days to pay thanks for their good fortunes.

The present site was purchased as it is now with virtually no modification sometimes in the 1820’s and remained the same ever since. The side building contains rooms for the aged and also a hall for travelers. The communal school for Chinese medium is located at the back

Address: 13, Damzen Lane, Kolkata-700073

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Sacred Heart School

The Sacred Heart Chinese School was founded by the late Father C. De Moor, a Jesuit, in the year 1934 35, after he had spent one year in Kwantung (Southern China) to acquaint himself with the language and customs of the Chinese people. The two first teachers were Mr. Paul Lee and his wife, a Catholic couple from Hong Kong. After having assisted Fr. De Moor as Teachers and Catechist for about five years, both of them returned to Hong Kong. They were succeeded by another Catholic couple. Mr. Joseph Yu and his wife.

From the initial few, the number of students had now greatly increased; the School fees however remained low, causing a yearly deficit, made good by the donations of the Chinese Community.

After the death of the Founder. 1968. a Committee was formed to take charge of the school. The first Chairman was the Archbishop of Kolkata himself. the Most Reverend LT. Picachy. S. J., with the following members : Mgr. E. Barber, Fr. Y. de Steenhault, S. J., Fr. P. Gomes, Mr. P. K. Chen, Mr. P. Lee, Mr. B. Lim, Mr. Than, Mr. J. Yu, Mr. V. Liu, Mr. C. Liu, Mrs. S. Liu and Mrs. Char, Mr. B Chung, Mr. G. Fok.

Under the efficient leadership of the newly elected Committee the School grew rapidly in numbers and the premises coots proved too small to accommodate all the students, Plans were made for a new school building on the site of the old dilapidated out houses. In the name of the Committee Mr. P. K. Chen, chairman and Fr. J. Van Hove, Principal approached the Archbishop for the approval of the plans and to explore means to finance the project. The Archbishop was kind enough to appeal to Rome who financed one third of the project. Another third was contributed by the local Chinese Community and the last third by “MISEREOR” the German Bishops’ Organization in aid of developing countries. This last donation came through the channel of the Indo-German Social Service Society, as gratefully acknowledged by a marble tablet that can be seen on the third floor of the school building. Similar tablets engraved with the names of Donors adorn the corridors in the entrance of the class rooms. Most prominent of all is the bust of the Founder, placed at the foot of the staircase at the main entrance of the building.

The 12th June 1975, Feast of the Sacred Heart, the new School building was solemnly blessed and inaugurated by His Eminence Lawrence Trevor Cardinal Picachy S. J. Archbishop of Calcutta.

With the new building the School entered a new period of prosperity. In 1978 Fr. Stephen Fernandes succeeded Fr. J. Van Hove as Principal. Mr. Huang Yee, Vice Principal from 1973 to 1980 had just migrated to Canada. A new Vice Principal was urgently required. It was 1979, the year of the Asian Bishops Conference in Calcutta Providence inspired Bishop Joseph Wong of Taiwan to take interest in our problem. It was not long before. on the Bishop’s recommendation, Miss Agnes Siew, a Malaysian National of Chinese origin from Taiwan, filled the post of Vice Principal from 1981 to this day.

The School, the Chinese Community. the Archdiocese of Calcutta, are deeply grateful to the Founder of the School, late Fr. C. De Moor, to the School Committee Members, the Principals and Vice Principals, to the members of the Teaching Staff, all of whom have given their best for the cause of Education in their beloved Sacred Heart Chinese School since the day of its inception till today.

On the same school compound there is a Chapel for the Catholic Chinese speaking Community. It was founded by the same Father C. De Moor, at the same time as the School. Father De Moor was its Chaplain for over 30 years. Fr. J. Van Hove succeeded him from 1968 to 1978. Fr. J. Sassil, Prefect of St. Xavier’s Primary School, is its Chaplain since 1978 to the present day.

Address: 15, Weston Street, Kolkata-7000013

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Ng Nyat Chiet

Ng Nyat Chiet falls on the fifth day of the fifth moon in the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival is held to commemorate the death of Wat Yuen, a Chinese poet and patriot. This festival is called Ng Yuet Chi or the Ng Yat Chaet

Wat Yuen: The Patriot and Poet
Wat Yuen was minister to the king of one of the warring states and he was also one of China’s greatest poets. He was extremely popular both with the King and with the people. His peers were thus terribly jealous of him and plotted to get rid of him. They poisoned the ears of the King and Wat Yuen was dismissed from his post.

For 20 years Wat Yuen wandered the length and breadth of the Kingdom, writing and composing verses on what he saw and thought. The declining state of affairs in his beloved country saddened him a lot and he felt helpless that the King would not listen to his plan of saving the country. Wandering beside the river he sat down to compose his most beautiful poem – a summary of his life and a statement of his ideals. With a formal farewell to his country through his poem, Wat Yuen threw himself into the river.

When the common people heard this, they were horrified and tried to search for him in the river. They took out their boats and went round and round the river in search for Wat Yuen. When they realized he had drowned, they threw special rice dumplings into the water in the hope that the fish in the river would eat the dumplings and spare the body of a great man like Wat Yuen. The Dragon Boats race held on this festival every year is to look for Wat Yuen & everybody eats dumplings of sticky rice wrapped up in bamboo leaves to remember the man.

Chong and the Calcutta Chinese
Most of the Calcutta Chinese make their own chong in the house but it is available in the market too. Wrapped in bamboo leaves (for the aroma) in a 3-D triangular shape, the inner filling has sticky gluttonous rice, a piece of marinated pork, masoor dal, preserved salted egg yolk, mushrooms etc. Deftly wrapped, it has to be boiled for at least 7 to 8 hours in a big vessel before it can be eaten. But the way the dumplings are relished makes the effort worthwhile. Some people also make a variety of plain kaan soi chong which is plain gluttonous rice mixed with a kind of spirit called “kan soi” and usually dipped in sugar and eaten.

The chong is first offered to the spirit of the ancestors before being eaten by mortals. Some families start making and exchanging dumplings between friends and relatives a week before the actual festival. For the Chinese, Wat Yuen the poet, in whose memory the festival is celebrated, is an example of loyalty and patriotism and thus, this is a festival to remind oneself of one’s obligations and duties with emphasis on loyalty and commitment to the one’s country.

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