The tomb sweeping custom has a long history in China, which
can be traced back to the Spring
and Autumn Era. A large volume of literature attributing
to the annual event during the heyday of Chinese civilisation,
in particularly the Tang, Song and Ming dynasties,
bears testimony to its wide appeal and great popularity among
generations of Chinese. However, no tomb sweeping event in
history is more memorable than the one taking place in 1976,
a Fire Dragon year 36 years ago.
Just 8 days entering that year, Zhou
Enlai, the most loved premier China ever had and may
ever have, passed away. It came as a terrible shock to
most people when they learned the news from the radio at
7am next day.
It was the 10th year of the Cultural
Revolution initiated by a noble and courageous intention
which is to break away from the dead
loop that sees any social reform end up in a similar
situation: a new group of oppressive and exploitative elite
minority replaced the old. But the whole movement didn't
execute well. Although the turmoil only lasted for two
or three years, the spirit of anti-Chinese tradition enforced
by an army of political cadets, such as Wen
Jiabao (the current premier), still dictated the society
which isn't something that most Chinese relish. By the
time an Anti-Confucius Campaign
(批林批孔) mounted, that covertly targeted Zhou who tried to
save as much Chinese
heritage as possible, the resentment towards the fundamental
Marxism, that dismissed the highly sophisticated indigenous
Chinese civilisation as "feudal
(封建残余), had reached an explosive point.
The catalyst came shortly after Zhou's death. The central
government controlled by the arrogant anti-tradition extremists
ordered to scale down the mourning standard, with the national
flag lowered to half-mast for only one hour.
On 19 March, a wreath was found before the Monument to the
People's Heroes in the Tiananmen
Square, which was laid by a group of primary school students
from Chaoyang District. This sent off like a signal shot
that provoked a mass public display of outpouring of grief.