Chinese Grave custom?

I drive past a major Chinese cemetery in Daly City, CA, every day. as far as I can tell, ALL the graves are occupied by Chinese people.

Today, I noticed a large number (a small percentage of total graves, but certainly more than 25 separate graves) that had either a single or a pair of oranges either on the tombstone or directly in front of it.

What’s the significance?


Offerings to the dead. The same reason why we burn paper money, so they can use it in the afterlife. One wonders about the exchange rate though.

One thing I noticed - the oranges were MAGNIFICENT! Beautiful, full, gorgeous oranges. So round, so firm, so fully-packed! on a quick look, they were all the BEST oranges I would have found at the store.

Nothing less for their ancestors, I suppose…


In a similar situation, Jews leave a stone on the grave marker. I don’t know if that seems a better deal than an orange. I’m not being snarky; I don’t understand either custom.

I remember that from the end of Schindler’s List. I cried like a big fat crying machine at that scene. It was like a waterfall.


While on vacation in Japan my friends and I stumbled into a tiny cemetery under an overpass. I remember one of the graves had an unopened can of Asahi beer. I thought that was very special.

My understanding is that many Asians cultures leave food for the dead, as we Westerners leave flowers and sentimental items.

Keep your eye out! Tomb Sweeping Day- a kind of Chinese Day of the Dead- is coming up. On this day people will clean up and decorate their ancestors’ tombs.

Round fruits, especially good oranges, have symbolic meaning in China. From what I understand, their roundness represents a kind of wholeness and completeness that is associated with family. They are also symbolic of wealth and luck. And, I must say, during the gray winter a bright orange really does seem like something special.

As such, they end up serving a lot of symbolic purposes- as offerings, hostess gifts, New Year’s treats, etc.

I don’t know, I think I still like the idea with the beer better than the orange. :slight_smile:

So would the kids in my neighborhood.

Among Jews, the stone isn’t an offering to one’s ancestors. I believe (but have no cite) that it started back in the day when graves were covered in piles of stones; visitors would add to the pile and maintain it, as a sign of respect for the deceased. Nowadays, it’s much more symbolic.

Cool, thanks. I love me a free meal. Delicious oranges and unopened beers, huh? :wink:

Alcohol and fruit are both common as offerings to the dead. Although in Korea we just let the dead have a whiff and then drink it ourselves.

I’ve never heard that explanation. While it is plausible, the stone is a sign that the deceased has been remembered by one visiting the grave. You may think it doesn’t mean much, but picture a cemetary with multiple stones on each monument. You, the living, know these people are not forgotten. On a more personal note, when I visit a close relative’s grave, I know others have come to remember this person, too. It is a good feeling to know they are not forgotten.

In Judiasm, the anniversary of one’s death is more important (and diligently remembered) whereas birthdays are of lesser importance. The emphasis here is on the importance of what a person accomplished in their lifetime.