Key Rituals, Family Rules, Forbidden Rules

Pages 2.0324

Re-editing the sixth volume of the Ma family Tree:
Regarding the Sacrificial Etiquette in Family Ancestral Halls

Folios: 2.0324a_2.0324b

On every New Year‘s day of the Spring Festival 立春節, we must welcome the Tai Sui God1, a ritual that has existed since ancient times. Every family member should participate, have a respectful mood, prepare burning incense, candles, sacrificial food and wine, and other sacrifices and place these items in front of the ancestral hall. The worshippers must perform the Eight Kneeling Bowing ceremony2 to welcome the arrival of spring.

Worshiping the ancestors on New Year’s Day is a New Year’s ceremony to be held at the ancestral hall, which must be thoroughly cleaned in advance. The task of cleaning the ancestral hall must be completed before the dawn of New Year’s Day. Sacrifices such as candles, tea, fruits, etc., must be ready, and the pictures of the ancestors must be properly hung before the beginning of the worship of the ancestors’ ceremonies. The whole family enters the ancestral hall and honors them. They enter the threshold according to age to perform the Four Kneeling Bowing ceremony3.

The night of the 13th to the 18th of the first lunar month is the Lantern Festival 元宵佳節. Sacrifices are to be placed in front of the ancestral shrine of the ancestors. Every night, incense is burned, candles are lit, and paper lanterns are hung outside the gate to pray for the ancestors to bless the New Year for peace and a good harvest.

Tomb-sweeping festival or Qingming Festival 清明節.The ancestor’s tombs must be worshiped on this day; they are called the Tomb sweepers. They should prepare joss sticks, wine, and water offerings; place them in front of the ancestor’s tomb, seal the soil, insert bamboo, and hang paper money. The whole family gathers to worship. First, they worship the earth god and then worship the ancestor’s tomb. They all have to perform the Eight Kneeling Bowing ceremony.

The annual New Ceremony 薦新禮is very important to be performed between the early and mid-sixth Moon.  The offering gift has to be grander. Village elders choose an auspicious day, prepare joss sticks and other sacrifices, and go to the family ancestral hall to worship the ancestors and gods.

Zhongyuan Festival 中元節is to be held on the 15th day of the seventh moon. In ancient times, there was an orchid pot meeting to worship ghosts and gods. Now, people have to prepare vegetable offerings in family ancestral halls and honor the family’s ancestors acceding to the order of generation.

Double Ninth Festival 重陽節is to be held on the 9th day of the 9th Moon. Both officials and ordinary people in the family must prepare sacrifices to pay homage to their ancestors and perform the “Reporting of the Autumn Ceremony” 報秋禮儀.

The winter solstice 冬至 is the day when the Yang Qi (生长之气, the Growth Spirit) begins to increase, and you must worship your ancestors without forgetting the root. You must have a banquet table for your own immediate branch of ancestors, and the ancestors of the other branches will share a banquet table. The head ancestors of the other branches must have an individual banquet table. The financial contributor’s ancestors will share a banquet table. It is necessary to hire drummers and wind instrumentalists. The whole clan performs the Twelve Kneeling Bowing ceremony4 in an orderly manner.

Every year on New Year’s Eve 除夕, the family members prepare incense, candles, and wine offerings to pay homage to the gods and their family ancestors. This is called a farewell ceremony. Those who participate in the worship have to perform the Eight Kneeling Bowing ceremony.

Anyone in the family who has marriage and funeral matters must perform a “Tribute Ceremony 告祭禮” to inform their ancestors. Those who have these marriage and funeral matters must prepare sacrifices such as incense, candles, wine, etc., and perform the Eight Kneeling Bowing Ceremony.


Note 1: Tai Sui God太歲神The 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are based on divisions of the Jovian orbital cycle, rather than—as with the western zodiac—the sun’s apparent motion relative to the celestial sphere. The star thought to oppose Jupiter during each year of the cycle was personified as a Heavenly General (zh:甲子神列表) or Cycle God. These were believed to assist the Jade Emperor in controlling the mortal world. Their number was later quintupled to 60, based on the combinations of the twelve divisions (reckoned using the earthly stems) with the five Chinese elements of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each of the gods’ features and attributes signifies the well-being of that year. For example, if the Tai Sui of the year holds a pen,[who?] it represents political unrest for that particular year.[why?] On the other hand, if the Tai Sui of the year holds a spear or sword,[who?] it signifies the need to work hard and excel for that year.

For 2021 the Tai Sui God is 太细杨信大将军 General Yang Xin.. 岁以六十甲子的干支纪年法为运转周期,共六十位,每年有一位岁神当值,在当年当值的太岁谓之“值年太岁”,是一岁之主宰。如《三命通会》中所讲:“夫太岁者,乃一岁之主宰,诸神之领袖”。

Note 2: Eight kneeing bowing Ceremony八拜禮: Bowing in eight directions: east, south, west, north, south-east, north-east, south-west, north-east.

Note 3: Four Kneeling Bowing Ceremony四拜禮:中國古代祭祀天地時最隆重的禮儀. From Chou dynasty. 顾炎武日知录》卷二十八说:“古人未有四拜之礼,唐李涪刊误曰:夫郊天祀地止于再拜,其礼至重,尚不可加。”但紧接着他又解释说:“自以下即有四拜。《大明会典》:‘四拜者,百官见东宫、亲王礼,见其父母亦行四拜。其余官长及亲戚朋友相见,止行两拜礼。’是四拜唯于父母得行之。”“今代妇谒姑章,其拜必四,详其所自,初则再拜,次则跪献。衣服文史承其筐篚则跪而受之。

Note 4:  Twelve kneeling Bowing ceremony details: “短十二叩”的顺序是:入场先作揖打躬,跪地四叩首、起身作揖打躬、直行(路径长的话,走步时可以作揖打躬)至祭台前、作揖打躬、分次接过台案上的三炷香自左低起上扬传递至右、作揖打躬、直跪下以后接酒,(接酒是高接低传,意为祭奠亡灵)三盅酒递完,四叩首、起身作揖打躬,回身至入场地点,作揖打躬、跪地哭拜三声、四叩首、起身打躬作揖。

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Pages 2.0326

Bright Creek Ma Family,  Volume 5
Etiquette Norms of Ma Family members

Folios 2.0325-2.0326

In ancient times, Sima Wengong and Xin’an Huigong were the most well-known in family etiquette’s compilation. Now, the behavioral norms of our Ma family members have changed somewhat from ancient times. We respect the customs of our hometown and the principle of simplicity and feasibility. Like our family law, we compare the “Hedong Liu Clan Genealogy” with the “Zheng Clan Code” of the Zheng clan in Pujiang County, Zhejiang. But after all, we are in a different era from them. We only use their codes for reference.

Ming Ji Gong said that if there are people who have no descendants among our Ma family members, they should choose the heir among the fair descendants of his family’s relatives. If the heir is determined, he should treat the heir as his own. The same treatment is not allowed to adopt a surname other than Ma as the heir, nor is it allowed to use the son brought by a later wife as the heir because this will cause chaos in our clan and violate national laws. All the descendants of our Ma family must be cautious in choosing successors and strictly follow our Ma family’s family laws.

We must first report marriages between men and women in our family to the patriarch of the clan. If it is determined that it is the right one and the clan people agree, we shall follow the etiquette regardless of whether the other party is poor or rich. Don’t covet the other’s family’s wealth and forgo concerns about their ancestors’ previous mistakes and bad reputations, and marry them. If there is any violation of this rule among our Ma family members, the whole family will reject them. Nor can we deliberately conceal people who deceive the family because they are afraid that people in our family will know the other’s family’s real situation. This will ruin the reputation of our Ma family.

Mr. Binhu said that our country had formulated the Six Laws1 to govern and constrain the people while preventing them from doing things that violate the Law. Nowadays, the prominent families in society manage family laws and regulations, which are used to restrain their own family members and protect their own family’s established business. Since inheriting our ancestors’ development, our Ma family has always insisted on using poems, books, and etiquette to pass on from generation to generation, so that future generations will respect discipline and abide by the law. Therefore, our Ma family will thrive, and talents continue to emerge. We are the people of the Bright Creek Ma family. Our people have been respected as famous families since ancient times. However, recently, some children do not perform well. They don’t like to learn poetry and books. They like to cause trouble. Whenever they encounter a little incident, they would burst into thunderous rage. Shouting and cursing ruthlessly, even regardless of his elders and juniors’ pleas, he would summon a bunch of his peers, led his servants in the family, and beat others. It is very unreasonable. If others report him to the government, they will counter-attack them. Everyone who beats others will only spend a lot of money to go to lawsuits so that the family property is used up and the family is ruined. This is really a pity! As the head of the Ma family, I experience the goodness of our Ma family ancestors. Working hard to establish propriety. I hope that our excellent brothers and grandchildren of the Ma family will be considerate.  All actions must be based on good intentions. There is no violation.  There must be no selfishness.

First, there will inevitably be arguments between each other in our Ma family due to official or personal affairs. If there is something really unreasonable, we must first explain it to the elders in the family. The elders in the family must be involved. Yu Gongxin will deal with it. If there is a fight between the juniors and the elders, even if the junior person is reasonable, he will be fined a silver tael or two contributing to building an ancestral hall. If the Junior person were unreasonable and even beat others, he would be fined twice as much. Don’t take it lightly.

If there are disputes and other matters in a family, you must first explain to the family’s elders and let the elders of the family carry out mediation. If there are challenging situations to deal with, and the problem is serious, then the lawsuit is allowed to go to the government and let the government handle it. If there are disputes that are not dealt with by the clan elders first but go directly to the government, regardless of whether he has a good reason or not, he will be fined five taels of silvers by the family.

One of our Ma family members, whoever participates in banquets and gatherings, must follow the rules left by our Ma family ancestors. On public occasions, they must be generous, calm, and humbly, and be courteous everywhere. If at the banquet, someone who ignores the old and the young, does not listen to others’ persuasion and makes loud noises and frolics, he will be fined three maces to warn him for his mistake. If someone harbors personal grievances and uses official business to provoke others, or even fight with each other, disrupt the banquet, or destroy the banquet’s items, this is a robber’s behavior, and the world cannot tolerate it. Everyone must rebuke him. For his fault, after he has understood the matter from beginning to end, he must be fined two or two taels of silver to warn him so that he will never make such mistakes again.

In a family, there are several wedding ceremonies and gifts. Our family originally had a rule. Wealthy people are asked to give three silver taels, and poor people are asked equivalent to give two taels of silver. If you marry a second wife, you will be paid one and two to five taels of silver regardless of who you are. A widow shall receive up to five maces. These are fixed quantities.

Some are not courteous and will not allow you to participate in the banquets prepared by marriage partners.

Funerals and sacrificial ceremonies in a family are major events. We should go to help. Ancient people have the etiquette to donate money to the funeral, and it is also the affection of family members to help each other. From now on, there have been funerals in the family, and despite how far they are, family members have to take three taels or even mace of silver to express condolences and express their willingness to help. If others want to help more, it is not within this regulation. Family members are united in harmony and unity.

There are three main principles. The first is respect for everyone, the second is the respect for the old, and the third is being virtuous. Of course, the senior elders in our Ma family must respect him, obey him, and should not offend him. If he is very old and not only, we must also support and protect him and treat him with the etiquette for the elderly. In a family with noble character, there will be many talented and capable people. Those who are successful in their careers and have both ability and political integrity are the backbones of our Ma family. They are capable of shouldering and supporting the important task of our Ma family portal. , We must respect them, learn from them, or respect them regardless of seniority and age differences. This is the basic Three Essentials of a family2,There are the Four Restraints “四矜.” One is to have compassion and sympathy for the young and sickly. The second is to take care of elderly widows. The third is to help poor people who have nowhere to live. The fourth is to persuade others to solve his grievances.

Powerful villains easily bully young and frail people. We must have compassion and sympathy for them. When we practice compassion, we can help them anytime and anywhere. Even the imperial court ordered to take care of the widowed and lonely Officials. What’s more, we are of the same race. Can we see and hear their suffering? Then, we have to help them. To the poor, we must do our best to help them. The rich people give them some money and food. This is to accumulate grace and virtue! Those who encounter natural and artificial disasters and bad destiny lack food and clothing and live in difficulties. , We should also extend a helping hand in time. Give help as we can. If we can help, don’t expect them to return your favor, and don’t let others know. We should do our best. If people in the family have grievances in their hearts, they will argue with others. If, at this time, someone can persuade him and use words to enlighten him, then his anger will disappear in a while. If there is a bad intention, and if you use bad words to add fuel to the fire, he will become more intense. They immediately persuade him and enlighten him to calm him down in time. This is our Ma family member. Our responsibility is also a good thing to accumulate our good deeds!


  1. Six Laws:  Ancient Laws included Law of History, Law of Household, Law of Etiquette, Law of Military, Law of Incarceration, and Law of Labor.古代律法,六律律法“六律”即 户律礼律兵律刑律工律。吏律是关于官吏违反职责的惩罚规定,户律是关于违反税收、田地房屋、婚姻家庭继承、契约等管理秩序的惩罚规定,礼律是关于违反礼仪或祭祀制度的惩罚规定,兵律是关于违反国家边防、军政、邮政制度的惩罚规定,刑律是关于贼盗杀人斗殴奸淫诈伪等一般刑事犯罪的惩罚规定及违反诉讼程序的惩罚规定,工律是关于违反国家工程营造及水利管理等方面制度的处罚规定。这就是所谓“六律”g
  2. Three Needs of a Family: Ancestral Temple, Genealogy, and Ancestral Land. 祠堂、家谱和族田