The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Chinese cemeteries

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794. Cemeteries. About Canton and Macao the high lands are very little cultivated, being generally set apart for burying the dead; those about Canton are entirely occupied as cemeteries, the low grounds, which can be covered with water, being the only ones which will produce rice. (Dobell's Travels, &c., vol. ii. p. 191.) Sometimes, however, the Chinese choose a valley for a cemetery, as that of the Vale of Tombs near the lake See Hoo (fig. 224.). The Chinese burying-place near the Yellow River (fig. 225.) is a specimen of a cemetery on high ground. Mr. Fortune tells us that a very considerable portion of the land in the neighbourhood of Shanghae is occupied by the tombs of the dead. 'In all directions large conical-shaped mounds meet the eye, overgrown with long grass, and in some instances planted with shrubs and flowers. The traveller here, as well as at Ning-po and Chusan, constantly meets with coffins placed on the surface of the ground put in the fields, carefully thatched over with straw or mats to preserve them from the weather. Sometimes, though rarely, when the relatives are less careful than they generally are, I met with coffins broken or crumbling to pieces with age, exposing the remains of the dead. I was most struck with the coffins of children, which I met with every where; these are raised from the ground on a few wooden posts, and carefully thatched over to protect them from the weather - reminding the stranger that some parent, with feelings as tender and acute as his own, has been bereaved of a loved one, whom he, perhaps, expected should cheer and support him in his declining years, and whose remains he now carefully watches. Those in the higher ranks of life have, generally, a family burial-place at a little distance from the town, planted with cypress and pine trees, with a temple and altar built to hold the josses or idols, and where the various religious ceremonies are performed. A man with his family is stationed there to protect the place, and to burn candles and incense on certain high days. Others, again, are interred in what may be called public cemeteries, several of which I met with in the vicinity of Shanghae. These are large buildings, each containing a certain number of spacious halls or rooms, and having the coffins placed in rows around the sides.' (Fortune's China in 1843-4-5.)