Speech by Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek at the 2017 Singapore-Malaysia-Indonesia Ancestor Worship event
Worshiping our ancestors is an important Chinese ritual. It lies at the heart of our tradition. It has continued uninterrupted for centuries, through war and peace. It is done by everyone, from the common man to leaders of nations.
And why do we do it? We do so because we want to remember them. We do so with a genuine heart. We believe that by doing so, we shape the values of those around us, which in turn creates a better society. And the way we worship our ancestors is to go through certain rituals, such as the ones we will go through today.
So while we physically go through the elaborate rituals today, what should our hearts and minds focus on? I believe that the answer could lies in a particular phase in the Analects,《慎终追远》. Let me try my best to explain this concept.
In Chinese customs, we visit our ancestors’ tomb at Qingming festival every year. We clean the tombs, we also hold rituals. This ritual is a good opportunity for us to reflect and introspect. We start by first remembering our ancestors. And then we thank them, especially for what they have done for us. And we try to remember the spirit that they hold, the virtues that they carry. And then we measure ourselves against their spirit and virtues. And if we find ourselves lacking in any of these spirits and virtues, we strive to change ourselves for the better.
And when we ourselves gain from this constant reflection, we teach our next generation how to do this. Not just the rituals, but the process of reflection that accompanies the rituals. This is the best way to remember our ancestors, and to express our love for them.So today, as we go through the ritual together, let us love, respect and reflect.