Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Professor follows dreams to grant ancestor’s request

By Hung Mei-hsiu and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

A bone collector, left, accompanies professor Chang as she burns incense in front of an urn containing ancestral remains in Hsinchu City on July 6.

Photo: Hung Mei-hsiu, Taipei Times

A female university professor said that a deceased ancestor wearing an official cap of the Qing Dynasty appeared to her in a vivid dream, bemoaning the “living conditions” in his urn, which he said contained the remains of too many people, and demanding relocation.

The professor from Hsinchu City, surnamed Chang (張), said that her husband’s relative had told her: “It’s so crowded in here [the urn] that my head is about to be severed, please relocate me [my remains] to a more commodious place.”

Chang said the man had repeatedly appeared in her dreams ahead of the annual Tomb Sweeping Day — which fell on April 4 this year — and expressed the same grievance in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) every year for the past five years.

With a doctorate in science and as a non-believer in supernatural events, Chang said she was at first unperturbed by the bizarre dreams and did not pay attention to the repeated requests.

The college professor had made attempts to discuss her strange encounters with the deceased ancestor — who she believed was the father of her husband’s great-grandfather — with her family, but they dismissed them as nonsense.

However, a serious traffic accident two years later changed the professor’s mind.

Chang was driving her Mercedes on the highway when her car was rear-ended by another vehicle, sending it flying into the air and then crashing onto the inner lane. The collision shattered her car’s windshield and concussed the left part of her brain, but she had no severe injuries.

Shortly afterward, she said the ancestor visited her again in a dream and repeated his request. It was then that she resolved to find the ancestor’s urn.

In spite of her determination, Chang’s search was difficult, as neither her husband, nor her mother-in-law, knew where the urn was.

Chang said she went to the Hsinchu City Government for help.

An initial investigation showed that about a decade ago, the city government had ordered various buried remains to be relocated to make way for a road construction.

Chang said she cross-referenced the city’s records with her family records and eventually found that the long-lost urn had been placed in a memorial tower on Siangshan (香山), near the city.

After reciting scriptures and tossing crescent-shaped divination blocks — zhijiao (擲筊) or bwa bwei as they are called in Hoklo — in a ritual used to ask permission from the dead or from deities for a certain request, Chang took out the urn.

Chang saw that the urn was inscribed with the names of eight ancestors, which she took to be proof of what the man had said in her dreams. He was later identified as Chen Yi (陳沂).

However, as Chen’s name was not on the urn, Chang asked a Daoist priest to perform the rituals again to determine if Chen’s remains were in the urn.

Outcomes from a few rounds of zhijiao seemed to confirm that the remains of nine of Chang’s husband’s ancestors rested in the same urn.

Chang said she would hire a bone collector to sort the remains and put them to rest separately.

“Now I can finally sleep well at night,” she said.

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