China & Japan

Qingming is the festival that is most often referred to as Chinese Memorial Day, although a closer translation would be ‘Clear Bright Day’.  It is a traditional Chinese festival that involves the sweeping of ancestors’ graves.  The tradition is said to date back over 2,500 years, and has even survived the disapproval of the Communist authorities over events that have taken place on Qingming - including the Tiananmen Square protests.

Japan has another way of commemoration.  The purpose of the two-minute silence here has always been to provide a time and an atmosphere in which people can remember the dead, both personally and communally. Silence, however, is not the only method used around the world to achieve contemplation. Another way is through the Japanese Peace Bell. 

There are several such bells in existence; two were given to the United Nations - one before Japan was even allowed into the UN - but the most poignant example is the one in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.  This park, which was created from the wreckage of what was once the centre of Hiroshima, attracts millions of visitors from around the world every year. At its heart is the message of peace. Visitors are encouraged to ring the bell in much the same way as we use the two- minute silence, as a chance to think about the fallen and to consider all the issues surrounding war and its consequences.