Qing Ming in Santa Cruz

Memorial gate. Credit: Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

Memorial gate. Credit: Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

I recently attended a dedication ceremony for the newly-constructed Chinese Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery. The ceremony was put on by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History on the exact day of Qing Ming (Clear Bright, a major holiday on which families sweep the graves of their ancestors), and was billed as “Feeding the Hungry Ghosts: A Celebration of Commemoration and Reconciliation.” Sangye Hawke of the Museum wrote a blog post explaining the historical context for the construction of the Memorial and its dedication ceremony. Local historian Sandy Lydon also gave a lecture entitled “Empty Graves” on April 3rd explaining the practice of the exhumation of graves and the shipping of bones back to China. One thing that really struck me was that Lydon pointed out (in his lecture, and again during the ceremony) that despite the fact that most Chinese graves in Santa Cruz were exhumed, there are bound to be many unknown graves of Chinese laborers throughout the mountains. The Memorial contains five bronze replica grave markers. One of them (the one with the red tassel in the picture above) is blank to symbolize all of these unknown graves–a collective cenotaph. I really like that. I don’t have a lot to say about the ceremony itself right now, but it was cool to see dozens of people (both Chinese and non-Chinese) offering incense and burning paper money.

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