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'Qingming' Travelers to Set Record
A record 6.1 million locals are expected to travel to rural Shanghai and neighboring cities to pay homage to their ancestors by cleaning their gravesites for this year's Qingming - Clear and Bright Day - which falls on April 5, the Shanghai Land Transportation Adminis-tration said yesterday.

The administration has warned citizens to avoid peak traffic hours and pay attention to traffic safety during the Qingming tomb-sweeping period, which begins today.

Many locals' ancestors are buried in nearby cities like Suzhou in Jiangsu Province. As a result, a huge traffic flow is forecast during the period, especially on weekends when local families will spend one day for tomb-sweeping, plus a spring outing.

Officials suggested people avoid the rush weekends. "The busiest hours are normally from 8 am to 9 am on weekends," said Wu Run-yuan of the administration.

This year, the administration will continue with its traffic-control policy, where 1,000 highway permits will be issued for vans with seven seats or more on weekends.

Meanwhile, the city traffic and patrol police have warned locals to be careful while driving, especially new drivers.

During last year's Qingming period between March 26 and April 10, a total of 2,283 traffic accidents took place, leading to 59 deaths.

Officers said drivers, especially greenhorns, should be careful because of the danger from the traffic flow and unstable climate.

"Our officers will have extra work hours during the period, guiding drivers who are not familiar with roads leading to the rural grave-yards," said Xu Wei from the Nanhui District Public Security Bureau.

Qingming is an ancient Chinese tradition, said Yu Kangwei of Shanghai Funeral Service Center.

"People place some favo-rite dishes of the deceased in front of their tombstones, and burn silver paper, shaped like 'Yuan Bao,' a kind of ancient Chinese money. The latter represents the wish to send more money to the dead and prevent them from poverty in the other world," said Yu.

After the tomb-sweeping, people generally go for a family outing, called "Ta Qing" in Chinese - meaning enjoying the fresh greenery of nature as spring arrives.

(eastday.com March 24, 2003)

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