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Death is always a timely topic, and will especially be so on April 4th. It is a day when two death-reflective holidays coincide: Qingming (“ching-ming”), a Chinese holiday honoring one’s ancestors (also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day), overlaps with Easter, a significant death-related commemoration of the Western world. Whether you take part in the former, or celebrate the latter, the process of venerating the past points us to the future.

To mark Qingming and Easter both falling on the same day, Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith, translators and annotators of the Pocket Chinese Almanac (purchase here), touch on differences and similarities of the two holidays while examining funeral traditions in China and the Chinese diaspora. From wearing mourning clothes to burning paper tributes (including money, paper cell phones, and even sportscars) for the deceased to use in the afterlife, this presentation traces Chinese funeral customs from their ancient agrarian roots to modern urban practice today.

And the Chinese almanac says April 1st is a good day for meeting friends!

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April 1, 2021
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

About Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith

Joanna C. Lee is a recovering pianist with a doctorate in musicology from Columbia University. An active translator and interpreter, she has served such luminaries as former US President Jimmy Carter, film directors Luc Besson and Peter Greenaway, and Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan.

Ken Smith writes about Asian arts and culture for the Financial Times and other publications. He is the author of Fate! Luck! Chance! … the Making of The Bonesetter’s Daughter Opera. He speaks Chinese fluently, in many different dialects.

About The Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood is a living cemetery that brings people closer to the world as it is and was, by memorializing the dead and bringing to life the art, history, and natural beauty of New York City. Founded in 1838 and now a National Historic Landmark, Green-Wood was one of the first rural cemeteries in America. Green-Wood is 478 spectacular acres of hills, valleys, glacial ponds, and paths, throughout which exists one of the largest outdoor collections of nineteenth- and twentieth-century statuary and mausoleums.

Established in 1999, the Green-Wood Historic Fund’s mission is to maintain the Green-Wood Cemetery’s monuments and buildings of historical, cultural, and architectural significance; advance public knowledge and appreciation of this significance; and preserve the natural habitat and grasslands of one of New York City’s first green spaces.

This program is presented as part of a Death Education series, Death & Us. Death is the great universal, but the ways in which the dead are grieved and memorialized vary across racial, cultural, and economic divides in the United States. This series brings together a myriad of voices—from historians and preservationists to activists and funeral practitioners—to explore how diverse communities mourn and commemorate the departed from our nation’s founding to today.

Learn More and Support

MOCA has not skipped a beat since its temporary closure in March 2020. We’ve been converting our programs to online offerings and creating new digital content through multiple platforms, always free of charge—because history matters. We are facing tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19. We hope you’ll consider making a gift to become part of a continuing lifeline for MOCA. No amount is too little and we greatly appreciate your generosity. Your contribution helps sustain our beloved institution and supports the creation of new, online programming that will bring comfort and inspiration to more communities.


This program is brought to you by MOCA friends and partners, including Bloomberg Philanthropies. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.