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Bryson Shearwood

Swimming with the Sharks

Norman Shapiro

The Tomb of Grand Ancestor

Hanalei, Hawaii, USA

December 9, 2008, 8:40 am Hawaii time

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© 2008 Norman Shapiro, All Rights Reserved.

Caption

Hanalei Valley on the island of Kauai is known for it’s many taro patches. Almost all of the photographs I have seen are taken from a lookout above the valley. As I drove down into the valley to make some panoramas in the taro patches I soon discovered why. Practically the entire taro farming area is also a National Wildlife Refuge. There are no places on the side of the roads to park. And every 50 feet are "Keep Out" signs posted by the National Wildlife Refuge Service. My one attempt to make a panorama on the edge of a taro patch was cut short within five minutes by a farmer explaining that his family had grown taro for several generations in the area. And that they could be evicted for allowing “tourists” onto their farm land. He was very polite and I quickly left his land.

While driving around the taro farms I came across an old cemetery. In the middle was a very large altar. I have visited a number of cemeteries here in Hawaii and had never seen anything like this before. My research has yielded the following:

The Hanalei Chinese Cemetery, also known as Ah Goong San (Grandfathers Mountain) was built by and for the Chinese workers that built the water irrigation system in the valley many years ago. Today people of all backgrounds are buried here.

In the center of the cemetery is a large concrete altar. The altar is called The Tomb of Grand Ancestor and is named for the first person buried in the cemetery, or, it may be called Grand Ancestor Tomb and is named for all those buried there.

The platform and apron in front of the tomb is the site of the annual Qingming (Pure Brightness) festival. On this occasion, the front of the tomb is cleared and swept and offerings of food, incense and other items are made to the spirits.

This altar also has the "Omega-style" tombstone, in the center, shaped like the last letter of the Greek alphabet. This allowed the spirits to observe this world in a relaxed, seated position. Omega-style tombstones could be found throughout the Twentieth Century and were indicators of wealthy Chinese families.

Special thanks to the following people in my quest for more information on this site: Sue Fawn Chung, Terry Abraham, Priscilla Wegars, Carol Goo and Nanette Napoleon.

Location

Pacific Ocean / USA-Hawaii

Lat: 22° 12' 7.5" N
Long: 159° 28' 26.89" W

Elevation: 2 meters

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: Unknown / Undeclared.

OpenStreetMap: © OpenStreetMap contributors

Equipment

Nikon D70, 10.5mm Nikkor, homemade camera mount on Manfrotto rotater, PTMac, Photoshop, CubicConverter
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