This article will be written a bit earlier than the intended day, but it will serve the same purpose of informing you.
One of the main festivals in Chinese Culture which encompasses Cantonese culture as well is the Qingming Festival (Ching1 Ming4 Jit3 清明節). For those of you who don’t know, this is a Traditional Chinese holiday centered around those of one’s ancestors. According to the Traditional Chinese Lunar Calendar where a couple of other holidays are judged similarly. Every year this holiday is determined by the 15th day from the Spring Equinox. This year it takes place on April 5th, which happens to next Tuesday.
Traditionally what happens in a nutshell is that families will visit the graves of their ancestors as a yearly practice. Other holidays one might do this as well would include Chinese New Year’s but Chingming Festival is of special importance. Another name that I have heard this holiday being referred to in English includes “Tomb-Sweeping Festival” which I believe is appropriate due to some of the things you would do when visiting your ancestors’ graves. A family that goes usually has many tasks which include cleaning the gravestones and lighting incense for these individuals. Flowers would be placed just like western practice as well. Many times people would also bring food for the ancestors which is symbolic of giving them food. In an previous article I have mentioned before the importance of incense and chopsticks which you can see the importance of such actions in regards to visiting ancestors’ graves. In western countries with large Chinese populations, you may see cemeteries these next few days pretty packed and you will know the reason why!
Now for some useful Cantonese phrases. I consider this useful in the sense that it is more helpful and will help you avoid situations where you would not want to accidentally say things you do not mean. Cantonese like many East Asian cultures do not like introducing things related to death and this is how you can avoid accidentally mentioning death.
So the other day I accidentally ran into an article on Wikipedia, Cantonese Wikipedia to be exact, which gave many phrases that refer to death. Let’s go through some of them:
The normal way to say someone has died is through the verb “to die” 死 (sei2) such as:
“He died” – 佢死咗。 (keui5 sei2 jo2)
Obviously this isn’t an appropriate way to address someone as you would not say this in English either, you would say “He passed away” or “He’s gone.” Cantonese works the same, here are some ways to say it. They are all verbs in Cantonese. All romanization are in Yale Cantonese.
過身 (gwo3 san1) – Passed Away
過世 (gwo3 sai3) – Left this world
去世 (heui3 sai3) – Left this world
去咗 (heui3 jo2) – Left
走咗 (heui3 jo2) – Gone
Some things that means a person has died but isn’t necessarily obvious.
瓜柴 (gwa1 chaai4) – Literally: Gourd Firewood
瓜咗 (gwa1 jo2) – Literally: Gourd-ed
瓜老襯 (gwa1 lou5 chan3) – Note: In Cantonese, use of the word Gourd/Melon (瓜 gua1) in a verb sense typically means death, so be careful when you’re using such a term.
釘蓋 (deng1 goi3) – Literally: Nailed a cover, think of when you’re being buried, the coffin is nailed over right?
釘咗 (deng1 jo2) – Literally: Nailed, same as above
香咗 (heung1 jo2) – I don’t quite know why this means this, but 香 here could refer to incense and you’d know what this means
淋咗 (lam3 jo2) – Kinda means he fell (as in died)
長休 (cheung4 yau1) – Literally: Long Rest, similar to Rest In Peace for concept
玩完 (waan2 yun4) – Literally: Done playing (as in done playing this game of life)
賣鹹鴨蛋 (maai6 haam4 ngaap2 daan2) – Literally: Buy Salted Duck Eggs (I actually don’t know the reasoning behind this one if someone can tell me that would be nice, but try not to accidentally say this)
百年歸老 (baak3 nin4 gwai1 lou3) – Can’t really translate this, if someone can help me that’d be nice too.
If anyone has any others that they would like to add, please let me know. I know this post is not as informative as my other posts, but I wish to make more posts like these that start teaching people vocabulary they can actually use. However, I will still continue to make opinion, facts, and concept posts (or whatever you would like to refer to them as) as I have done since the beginning of this sight. Thanks for reading