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last weekend, The Guy and I went back to his hometown, Tebing Tinggi, North Sumatra. From his story, Tebing Tinggi seemed like a tiny uncivilized town. (Yes I was serious) He even told me that his house was so beaten up, I really thought it was made of wood. After a long drive from Medan (about 2,5 hours) we arrived there and it really wasn’t like what he told me. Well, it is a small city and it still has a lot of old buildings, but Jakarta’s trend managed to get here without delay. (barely) Teenagers with blackberries, cars like Honda new CR-V, Mitsubishi New Pajero and Mitsubishi Strada 4WD are the most popular choices there. I even saw a built-up Nissan Murano there! Man, I am living in the capital town and worry about choosing those car because after sales service might not be easy, but people there don’t seem to care about that. The Guy said that there’s a lot of rich people there in Tebing Tinggi, most of them own a huge oil palm or coco plantation and they only get to spend money on houses and cars. And you know what? The Guy’s house looked exactly like my grandma’s old house, the one that I grew up in. The size, the windows, the walls, the floors, the partitions, the back door and even the fact that there was no fridge there. It really brought back the memories, I did feel like home right away. No, the house wasn’t like the one he told me about.

The moment I met The Guy’s family. I felt so welcomed. They were so nice to me and they managed to provide me with all my needs. Even on one rainy morning, The Guy’s stepmom went to the market because I wanted to eat Remis (or tiny clams) the night before but the restaurant didn’t sell it. His little brother also tried hard to start conversation with me, and his father? He keeps referring me as a daughter and taught me all the Qing Ming’s rituals, so I will be able to perform the rituals in the future. It was all new to me, my parents never taught me these things and this was my first Qing Ming Festival, so I was quite excited :D

First thing we did was the tomb sweeping part. Chinese people have a slightly bigger tombs than the others. It depends on how wealthy the family is. Before we headed Tebing, we went to Deli Tua, to sweep The Great Great (hmm not sure how many greats) Grandfather and Grandma of the Guy’s family. The second day we went to few tombs in Tebing Tinggi and one of those were the Guy’s mum’s tomb.
The order of the tomb sweeping ritual was pretty much like this:
1. Cleaned the tomb.
2. Placed candles and offerings (fruits, cakes, joss paper) in Datok’s place, usually a smaller tomb like thingy in front of the tomb.
3. Burn some joss paper and candles, behind the tomb.
4. Arrange your offerings in front of the deceased tomb.
5. Burn incense stick for Datok and light both front and back datok’s candles to ask for permission.
6. Place a stack of five coloured papers in the deceased tomb and tap it a few times to invite the spirit.
7. The eldest one in the family starts the praying by lighting up the bigger incense stick.
8. The others follow with 3 incense sticks.
9. Put the remaining incense sticks together with the prepared five color papers on the tomb.
10. Prepared a circle (the tombkeeper rents this out), prepared the joss paper, and Hell bank note to be burned. We waited a few minutes assuming that the spirits had gathered. If you are burning things like paper clothes, cars, houses etc etc, don’t forget to label it with the deceased name, stating that it’s from you. There’s a yellow paper on those things for you to fill the necessary info. And the most important thing is don’t forget to leave a small stack of joss paper outside the ring, so the other hungry spirits would get their shared and won’t disturb yours.
11. In the middle of burning, throw a piece of bakpao or cake that you served for offering.

It was a really long process aye, gotta write it down so I won’t forget next time. Even though finding the tombs themselves wasn’t an easy task :p

Before we went back to Medan to catch a flight to Jakarta, we went to a temple where the guy’s mum’s (what do you call it?) placard(?)was placed. Today is the day where we prepared a feast for the deceased. We prepared 3 bowls of rice, 3 cups of tea and also spoons and chopsticks, with other side dishes. Joss paper was also served, along with three other sets of dining set. So the deceased can invite others. After setting up those things, we burn the incense sticks for the gods in the temple, while waiting for the deceased spirit to come. To check the presence of the spirit we do ‘puak pue’ it’s two pieces of almost crescent wood that we throw to ask question to gods or spirits. if it’s one side up and one side down, it means the spirits has arrived. We waited for them to feast while we burnt the joss paper and added some more tea into the cups. After waiting about 10 minutes, we packed everything and went home.

Well I know it would be interesting if I had at least snapped one picture. But the Guy said that it’s not polite and might be disrespectful for some spirits, and might bring us bad luck. So I didn’t take any picture at all :D
Oh one most important thing for a chinese to remember, no matter how bad the condition of your ancestors/family tomb is, as long as you are living healthy with enough money to spend and spare, please don’t fix anything on the tomb. Not even the repainting it. It brings bad luck to the family. Even when the tomb is barely there anymore, just remember not to rebuild it. However, you can move a tomb to other place so it would be close to the other relatives. My mum told me that my grandpa had saved his every penny to buy quite a large area for a family tomb, and the ancestors tombs were moved there.

Well, that’s a bit from last weekend.
beside those tomb sweeping all I did was eating. There in Tebing Tinggi food tasted better and they are much cheaper! I’ll never forget the taste of grilled ikan pare (stingray) with sambal kecap that was mixed with rice wine. crazy! Oh, and I met one of the gym members there also haha. A lot of hokkianese people in Indonesia came from Tebing Tinggi I guess :D

Hope you enjoyed your weekend as much as I did.



  1. glad to hear that all those travel hassles finally paid off!!!

    • iyaaa sampe lupa mau komplen karena terlalu senang :D

  2. happy that things went awesomely smooth :) (cozy)
    the ritual you described has slightly different with my family.but either way, it’s a way of expressing respect to our ancestors. good luck for coming preparations, nek

    • thanks, yuven. do write about your family ritual. It was my first time so prolly I got some details wrong :p don’t even know what the stuff called haha.

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