Cheng Beng (Qing Ming) Festival

Every year usually during the month of March or April, Chinese locals will be paying respect to their ancestors during the Qingming Festival (also known as Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Bright Festival). Qingming Festival is also commonly known as Cheng Beng by the local Hokkiens in Penang.

A Chinese tradition, the Qingming Festival is an opportunity for members of a family to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors.

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Mount Erskine’s Chinese Hokkien Cemetery

Mount Erskine's Chinese Hokkien Cemetery

The old entrance to the huge Hokkien Cemetery in Mount Erskine, Penang. This cemetery, managed by the United Hokkien Cemeteries (UHC), is one of the several main and old Chinese cemeteries in Penang, covering almost the entire hilly area in Mount Erskine. The area where the cemetery is located was once considered to be auspicious for the Chinese due to its strategic location that faces the city of George Town and the sea.

During the Qing Ming festival (usually around this time), this cemetery will be crowded with Chinese folks visiting, cleaning and praying at the graves of their ancestors and departed family members.

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Penang Isle: The Japanese Cemetery

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The Japanese Cemetery located near Jalan P. Ramlee (or near to the P. Ramlee Birth House) is a very old historical cemetery that dated back in 1893. All of the gravestones are before the World War II, and belong mostly to the Karayuki-san – Japanese women who traveled to or were trafficked to East Asia, Southeast Asia and as far as San Francisco in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century to work as prostitutes, courtesans and geisha.

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Penang Jewish Cemetery

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The Penang Jewish Cemetery was established in 1805 and is the oldest Jewish cemetery (and likely the only one) in the country. It is located on a plot of land situated alongside Jalan Zainal Abidin (formerly Jahudi Road), a small link road located between Burmah and MacAlister Roads in George Town.

The oldest Jewish tombstone at the cemetery is dated 9 July 1835 which is believed to have belonged to the English Jewess that was the benefactor who donated the land where the current cemetery stands. Most of the graves within the cemetery are built resembling a triangular vaulted-lid casket (like the ossuaries commonly found in Israel). There are approximately 107 graves located in the cemetery, with the most recent tombstone dated 2011 which belonged to the final member of the Jewish community in Penang.

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