The Differences of Tomb Sweeping Practices for Newer vs Older Graves
The ancients believed that the best time to sweep the tombs during the Qingming Festival was at dawn, which is convertible to the present time from 5am to 7am. It is because the sun rises at dawn, and the ancient military had to "do head counts" (Dian Mao) every day at dawn, thus the ancients believed that dawn was the best time to sweep tombs. Nowadays, as most of the cemeteries are far away from the residential area, it is not necessary to visit the cemeteries early in the morning. The best time to sweep graves is between 9am and 3pm. The date for sweeping varies according to local customs. It is best to complete the graves-sweeping 10 days before or after the Qingming Festival.
Sweeping the graves of deceased ancestors on Qingming Festival is usually done a few days in advance. However, the timing is different for new graves and old graves. New graves are those that have not been buried for more than 3 years, and the first grave-sweeping should be done on an auspicious day within 10 days before the Qingming Festival, the second grave-sweeping should be done on the Qingming Festival, and the third grave-sweeping should be done on an auspicious day within 10 days after the Qingming Festival, whereas the old grave-sweeping is much simpler, and it can be done on any one of the 10 days before or after the Qingming Festival.
The first thing to do when arriving at a cemetery during the Qingming Festival is not to go directly to the graves of the deceased to start sweeping. As the deceased is blessed by Tua Pek Gong, so people must first go to the Tua Pek Gong Temple to worship and express their gratitude to Tua Pek Gong for taking care of the deceased for the whole year before they can start sweeping the graves.