Fangzheng found Wang Yougui waiting for him at the foot of mountain. He went over when Wang Yougui greeted him.
In One Finger Village, the Wang family was the one of the bigger families with the most family members. In Wang Yougui’s words, the village was originally called Wang Family Village which eventually changed. Although the Wang family did not dominate the village, it still occupied half the village’s population. The remaining families had other surnames.
The Wang family had their own ancestral graves and once someone departed, they would be buried there. The other families would find auspicious lands themselves…
Wang Yougui had arranged early on that Fangzheng went to the Wang family’s ancestral grave first.
Wang Yougui was excited and waved Fangzhen over. “Let’s go!”
Fangzheng remained motionless despite everyone standing up. Instead, he glanced calmly at a woman in a flowery dress. Although the weather had turned warm, the north was not as warm as the south. It was rare to see people wearing a dress in early April. This was the first he encountered today.
“Fangzheng, is something wrong with me?” Wang Yanan lowered her head and looked at her dress.
Wang Yougui added, “Yeah, Venerable Fangzheng, is there a problem?”
Fangzheng shook his head. “Patron, wearing a skirt up the mountain is showing disrespect towards the ancestors. The act of honoring ancestors is a very solemn matter. You are dressed too brightly. It will make the ancestors believe that you think lightly of this matter.”
Wang Yanan was appalled. “Is that true?”
Wang Yougui smacked his forehead. “That’s right… There is such a saying. I once heard a story of a woman that always wore a dress to visit the graves. Later, her daughter would always attract the birds and the bees and act promiscuous. A master was sought out. The reason was that she always dressed too colorful and bright whenever she visited the graves. It displeased her ancestors which caused trouble for her child. Of course, that’s only a story…”
“Grandpa, what era is it? Is there a need to be so particular things like this?” Wang Yanan rolled her eyes in complete disbelief.
Fangzheng said solemnly, “The story might be fabricated but think about it. The act of honoring ancestors is a solemn manner. If you dress brightly and treat it lightly, then what’s the point of honoring one’s ancestors? Honoring our ancestors is a way to show respect towards them. It’s to promote filial piety. When the young watch their elders being filial, they would emulate that. If everyone learns to act like you, generations will think nothing of it thousands of years later. Eventually, what would the outcome be? Do you think people would still honor their ancestors? This is a tradition but it is also a form of education.”
Wang Yanan blushed slightly and grinned. “Fangzheng, I never expected you to change so much after you became an abbot. You’ve even begun reprimanding me.”
“So what if he reprimands you? Did Fangzheng say anything wrong? Did you go to college for nothing?” Go home and change your clothes!” Wang Yanan’s father berated.
Wang Yanan pouted. “Got it. I’ll change… It’s not like I said that he wasn’t right but… it feels… odd to be reprimanded by a peer.”
“I think you find it odd that a college student like you is being reprimanded by a school dropout, correct?” Wang Yanan’s mother understood her after all. Wang Yanan blushed and ran off.
Wang Yougui paid attention to such matters. Shortly after, a pregnant woman was sent back.
Monkey asked puzzled, “What’s wrong with that person?”
Fangzheng whispered, “She’s pregnant.”
Monkey was baffled. “Can’t she go if she’s pregnant? We monkeys go everywhere even when pregnant.”
“According to tradition, the places the ancestors are buried are heavy in Yin energy. It’s easy for that to affect the fetus. For example, ghosts might possess the fetus, causing ghost babies, etc. You probably would not understand most of that. But the true intention behind it is that mountains are steep and dangerous. Furthermore, there are many snakes and critters on the mountain. A pregnant woman might even lose her balance and fall on a normal path, much less on a mountain trail. If she were to fall on the mountain trail and causes a miscarriage, or something worse, not worth it. As for the honoring of ancestors, all she needs is someone to offer incense on her behalf and explain the situation.
Only then did Monkey understand the rationale behind such superstition. However, he could not figure out the need to use complicated reasons to scare people when the underlying rationale was that simple.
When Fangzheng saw the perplexed Monkey, he whispered, “This is the wisdom of the ancients. By involving the gods, it instills fear in people. That will prevent them from acting out of bounds. By the same logic, the ancients believed in ghosts and deities. So by involving everything with the supernatural, it would make people of ancient times fear them and treat it seriously. If it was not put like this, many people might risk themselves due to sheer bravado.”
Monkey scratched his head. Although he understood, his mind was still filled with all sorts of questions.
Fangzheng wasn’t anxious. Monkey had only just come into contact with human society. It was only normal that he did not understand.
Not long later, everyone was done with their preparations. The men carried the items while the women followed. The group of people went up the mountain.
Going around Mt. One Finger, there were countless mountains behind it. They were part of the Changbai mountain range. There were small hills beneath the towering mountains. Some of the hills were named while others were nameless. As for the Wang family’s ancestral grave, it was built on a hill called Mt. Wang Prosperous.
The group walked for more than two hours before they arrived at the Wang family’s ancestral grave.
Wang Yougui knew the entire process. He was even more particular than Fangzheng himself, Fangzheng did not have to interject at all. Everything proceeded smoothly. Even children were held by the adults to prevent them from running around.
Fangzheng was in charge of reciting the sutras. This was the only thing he needed to do.
After he was done with the Wang family’s side of things, he headed to the other families to help. Dog Song’s family, Yang Hua’s family, Yang Ping’s family, Tan Juguo’s family… and finally Sun Qiancheng’s family.
Sun Qiancheng’s family grave was situated beside their family field. It did not take long to reach.
Sun Qiancheng looked up into the sky. “Venerable Fangzheng, we haven’t been here that long. We have only three members to our family. The remaining brothers and sisters have headed south for work. They can’t make it back in time. This is my parents’ grave. The graves of my grandparents and the older generations aren’t here. There are some that can’t even be found. It also makes honoring the ancestors difficult.”
Fangzheng shook his head, “Patron, there’s no need to feel vexed. When it comes to honoring of the ancestors, it does not mean you have to go to a certain place. Since your parents’ grave is here, everything is settled.”
“Oh?” Sun Qiancheng looked at Fangzheng in astonishment. There was a way to settle the problem?
“You have three incense sticks in your hand but they are not to be used together. Hold one incense stick. When bowing, say: ‘All ancestors of the Sun family, please come forth to receive the extension of my offered incense.’ That will be equivalent to showing respect to all the ancestors of your entire family.
The second incense stick is the main one. It is used to honor your parents. Just say: ‘Father, Mother, today is the day I’m honoring you. Please enjoy the offering.’ That would do.”
Fangzheng pointed to the third incense stick, “The third incense stick is done on behalf of your family. Your brothers and sisters are away and unable to return. You will explain on their behalf the reasons of their absence. Ask the ancestors to not place any blame on them and offer the incense on their behalf. At the same time, recite the names of your brothers and sisters, as well as their offspring once. Ask your ancestors to protect them, praying for a smooth career, healthy life and peace. This way, you will settle everything with these three incense sticks.”