By Bob Krauss
We were all disappointed last year when there wasn't a Ching Ming celebration at the Manoa Chinese Cemetery. Cheer up. Ching Ming is back at 9 a.m. today. Jump in the car and get over there.
What's happened is a heart-warming crusade by 29 Chinese benevolent societies to revive a cultural institution that the whole community enjoys.
"There was a big void last year," said Keith Lim, president of the United Chinese Society. "Three months ago, we kicked off a new effort. A group of 29 Chinese benevolent societies got together for the first time to put on the Ching Ming celebration.
"It wasn't easy because they all have different ways of doing it. Kaua'i people have one idea, Maui another. We debated. This group is proud of the achievement to save Ching Ming. The 29 societies, individuals and corporations have donated." They needed $5,000. More than $8,000 came in.
Danny Young, descendent of pioneer Chinese educator Wah Duck Young, said a key to their success was approval by the Lin Yee Chung Association that operates the cemetery and put on past Ching Ming celebrations.
The new group calls itself the Hawai'i Chinese Ching Ming Celebration Committee. Lim said Jeanette and James Young work as their advisory committee. Jeanette is the widow and James the brother of George C. K. Young, father of modern Ching Ming in Hawai'i and past president of Lin Yee Chung Association.
"We all learned from him, all the societies," said Lim.
George Young devoted a good part of his life to restoring the Manoa Chinese Cemetery and into making Ching Ming a major event. It's celebrated as the time when spirits of Chinese ancestors come back to visit.
As a boy, his mother didn't let him swim during Ching Ming because a capricious spirit might push him under. As an adult, he carried onions in his pocket to ward off evil spirits when he visited the cemetery.
When he became president of the cemetery association, the graves were overgrown with weeds. The ornate gate at the entrance was termite infested. Today the Manoa Chinese Cemetery is a show place. There's a grand new gate flanked by two new stone lions.
From the Tomb of the Grand Ancestor on top the view is superb, a flowering plumeria framed in a sparkling white gate with a glistening, green tile roof and two golden dragons. Beyond lies Manoa Valley, Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.
The Manoa Chinese Cemetery is a manicured garden of graves drenched in peace and sunshine. Its only rival is Punchbowl, perhaps more monumental but less sensitive and poetic. The biggest monument in the Chinese cemetery is a huge, old banyan tree.
When George Young's spirit returns today, he should feel good. I went to see him Friday and told him so.
Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.