Chinese Memorials

Chinese cemeteries are usually located on a hillside according to Feng Shui practice.


Statues found at the gates of Chinese cemeteries or guarding a grave, are Guardians of Buddah. They are known by many names: Imperial Guardian Lion, Shih Tzu of Fo, Lion dogs or Foo Dogs and are displayed in pairs. The male, sitting on the right rests his paw on an embroidered ball, which signifies the authority of man in the world and is represented as Yang. Yin is manifested to the left in the female who restrains a kitten. She represents the nurture of offspring.



In the past, many gravestones in China were in the form of an armchair which represents authority and wealth. Expense, management of land and promotion of cremation by the government has made this form of gravestone less common.


The National Environmental Agency has an exhumation policy which limits the number of years a body can lay in the grave. After 15 years bodies are exhumed to make way for new burials. Bodies not claimed before exhumation are destroyed.

A Chinese gravestone usually has at least three columns of characters. The size of the writing indicates the relative importance of the information. The writing in the middle column showing the name of the deceased tends to be larger than that on the side columns. Most gravestones have the family name first followed by given names. Information relating the date and place of birth and age of the deceased is inscribed on the right hand side (east) and the date and time of death is found on the left (west).
Milton_Evergreen_Yee soo joe Chinese


Qingming Festival in Singapore is also known as Grave Sweeping day. Chinese families honor the dead by cleaning family graves and burn offerings to appease the dead in the afterlife.


Latin Cross

There are many forms and types of crosses used in cemeteries and on gravestones. The most common form and basic design is the LATIN CROSS (†). One of the oldest symbols of Christianity it symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice, and is an emblem of faith; salvation; and a symbol of rebirth.

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There are also many other types of crosses that are comprised of the basic Latin cross. The CALVARY CROSS is a Latin cross mounted on three steps to resemble Mt. Golgotha where Christ was crucified. Each step represents love, hope and faith.

stepped    calvary

A CROSSLET is comprised of four Latin crosses joined in the centre. It symbolizes the spread of Christianity to the four corners of the earth.



The LORRAINE cross is popular in France. It is associated with the Knights Templar and the crusades.


Panoramio_Juno beach

A Latin cross resting on a banded orb is known as the CROSS OF TRIUMPH or the cross of victory representing  the triumph of the Gospel throughout the world.

cross orb


Greyfriars Churchyard

Greyfriars Churchyard is inconspicuously tucked away on Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh, Scotland. Although not a large cemetery it contains a variety of burial options including vaults, sepulchres, tombs and mausoleums. It is rife with history, hauntings and a fair amount of mystery. Bodies have been buried here since 1562 although records were not kept until 1658. The location of many graves is unknown, and bones are regularly washed to the surface during heavy rainstorms. Hundreds of persecuted and martyred Covenanters lie here. Stones hundreds of years old marred by coal fire smoke and acid rain still stand albeit in a blackened mossy state. Although it seems that time almost stands still here, you will be surprised how quickly it passes as you wander through the graves.

The 17th century Greyfriars Kirk is still a working parish and worth a visit. A museum and gift shop are also located on the site.

Hugo Arnot, Edinburgh historian, describing Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1779
“The graves are so crowded on each other that the sextons frequently cannot avoid in opening a ripe grave encroaching on one not fit to be touched. The whole presents a scene equally nauseous and unwholesome. How soon this spot will be so surchrged with animal juices and oils, that, becoming one mass of coruption, its noxious steams will burst forth with the prey of a pestilence, we shall not pretend to determine; but we will venture to say, the effects of this burying-ground would ere now have been severly felt, were it not that, besides the coldness of the climate, they have been checked by the acidity of the coal smoke and the height of the winds, which in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh blow with extraordinary violence.”

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Montmartre Cemetery

20 Avenue Rachel, Paris, France (18th Arrondissement)

A final resting place of many famous artists, this tiered cemetery is full of surprises. The number and size of the tombs is overwhelming. Vegetation and moss flourish while cats stealthily sneak through the immense vaults and crypts. One of the most surprising sights is the overpass, a lattice metal viaduct known as the Pont Caulaincourt, which straddles one section of the cemetery. Are the crypts supporting the viaduct or is the viaduct restraining the crypts?

Angelic Symbols

Angels are spiritual beings guarding the tomb and praying for the soul. As a messenger from God the angel is a guide to Heaven. They represent love, protection, and resurrection. Angels are represented in many forms.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
Thy angels watch me through the night,
And keep me safe till morning’s light.

Symbolizes embracing the soul and escorting the deceased to heaven.

Like a rosebud faded with life scarce begun
And angels, bright angels escorted him home.


Represents heaven and Divine love.

Milton Evergreen, Milton, ON, Canada
Milton Evergreen, Milton, ON, Canada

Angels to beckon me
Nearer my God to thee
Nearer is thee

Milton Evergreen, Milton, ON, Canada
Milton Evergreen, Milton, ON, Canada

Represents blessings from Heaven

Mt. Olivet, Colorado

Love’s last gift


Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Represents a Guardian angel offering rebirth and resurrection

angel0653 angel0652

Represents chastity

A flower transferred from earth to bloom in heaven

Colma, CA
Colma, CA

Represents the memory of a loved one

Stratford, ON, Canada
Stratford, ON, Canada


Colma, California
Colma, California

And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since and lost awhile. 1925

Milton Evergreen, Milton, ON, Canada
Milton Evergreen, Milton, ON, Canada

An angel holding a praying bowl

Lowville, ON, Canada
Lowville, ON, Canada

The Archangel Gabriel depicted with a horn represents a call to the resurrection on the day of judgment. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Glenwood, Houston, TX
Glenwood, Houston, TX

angel trumpet

Represents the smiting of evil and forgiveness of sin

St. Michael's, Boston, MA, USA
St. Michael’s, Boston, MA, USA

The blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin. 1917

Glenwood, Houston, TX
Glenwood, Houston, TX

Symbolizes grief, mourning or an untimely death


But again I hope to meet him
When the day of life is fled
And in Heaven with joy to greet him
Where no farewell tears are shed

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Granada, Spain
Granada, Spain

FALLEN ANGEL OF THE MODERN VARIETY thanks to vandalism and neglect.

Newington fallen angel
Newington, Edinburgh, Scotland

Father Time & The Weeping Virgin

There are several versions of this sculpture containing different components which have been related to mythology, Judaism and Christianity; yet it is ultimately a Masonic carving. It symbolizes that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things. The most common symbols are Father Time, a Virgin, a broken column, an urn, a sprig of acacia, and a book, all of which rest on the top level of three steps.

gravely speaking_lakeview cemetery cleveland
Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland,OH, USA
gravely speaking_cavehill cemetery lousiville
Cavehill Cemetery, Louisville, KY, USA

Father Time is most often depicted as an old man with long hair and beard, and a pair of wings. A scythe and hourglass are symbols associated with him. The scythe represents the Divine harvest and the hourglass denotes that the sands of time bring us closer to death. As the scythe cuts the harvest, so life is ended by Father Time. He stands behind a virgin (or young woman) attempting to untangle the ringlets of her hair. It symbolizes that with time and perseverance all things can be accomplished.

flickr_evergreen_santa cruz
Evergreen Cemetery, Santa Cruz, CA, USA

The mythological Goddess Rhea is represented by a virgin or weeping woman who grieves over the loss of a loved one. Symbols differ in sculptures, the most common being an urn in her left hand and a sprig of acacia in her right hand. Acacia is an evergreen and represents the immortality of the soul. The urn is a symbol of death and was used to collect tears of the mourners. It is often shown resting on a book symbolic of the Book of Life where names of the righteous were recorded to ensure entry into Heaven.

Binghamton, NY, USA
Binghamton, NY, USA

Other representations show the virgin holding a scroll which is a symbol of life. She can also be found holding a chisel or a mallet. She stands before a sundered column symbolic of a life cut short. (A column or pillar was often used by the Hebrews to symbolize rulers or nobles.)


In Freemasonry, a summary of the sculpture relates the following.

  • The broken column denotes the untimely death of Grand Master Hiram Abiff.
  • The beautiful Virgin, weeping, denotes the unfinished Temple.
  • The book open before her, displays that his virtues are on perpetual record.
  • The sprig of acacia in her right hand, represents the timely discovery of his body.
  • The urn in her left, that his ashes were there safely deposited to perpetuate the remembrance of so distinguished a character.
  • Father Time standing behind her unfolding the ringlets of her hair denotes that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.
Masonic temple, Mendocina, CA, USA
Masonic temple, Mendocina, CA, USA

Image Sources

The Sunderland Disaster

In the 19th century the Victoria Hall facing Mowbray Park in Sunderland was a popular venue for public meetings and entertainment. The large hall offered seating on the ground floor, the first floor, the dress circle and the gallery.


On 16 June 1883 at 3p.m. approximately 2000 children between the ages of 4 and 13 years gathered to see a show by travelling entertainers from Tynemouth Aquarium. It had been advertised as the Greatest Treat for Children Ever Given and offered free presents to ticket holders with the winning lottery numbers.


These gifts were being handed out on the ground floor and eager not to miss out a mass of children began to stream down a narrow winding stairway 6 feet wide which descended from the gallery to an exit door that had been wedged open and bolted into the floor to facilitate ticket redemption and restrict passage of children one at a time. However, the surge of children knocked over those in front while the ones behind continued to push forward. The children at the bottom of the stairs were crushed and trampled. Records show a total of 202 children were asphyxiated in the tragedy. A hundred more were injured.

sunderland_journal illustre

A few of those who were lost included an entire Bible class of 30 children from a local Sunday school, and the Vills family who lost four children. Catherine Richmond, aged 7 years, survived the disaster but died from fright immediately following.

Ann Milner Pringle was 9 years old and her sister Margaret Pringle aged 7 years old.
In affectionate remembrance of Ann Milner Pringle aged 9 years and Margaret Milner Pringle aged 7 years, who lost their lives in the Victoria Hall catastrophe June 16th 1883. Symbolism of the fern on the gravestone represents new life.

William Johnson aged 10 years.
Sunderland-FLICKR- dave webster
Not my will Lord but thine be done. In remembrance of William, the beloved son of William & Elizabeth Johnson, who met with his death at the Victoria Hall, June 16th 1883, aged 10 years & 9 months. Symbolism of two birds is eternal life, and the lily represents innocence and purity.

Charles Foster aged 8 years.
In loving memory of Charles Foster beloved son of Robert T. Hannah Dodds who lost his life in the Victoria Hall catastrophe, June 6th 1883 aged 8 years.

John Howard aged 11 years.
In loving memory of John, son of William & Henrietta Howard who was killed in the Victoria Hall disaster, June 16th, 1883 aged 6 years 11? months.

Eliza Halliman aged 9 years.
Beloved daughter of John and Mary Ann Halliman who departed this life through the fatal Disaster at the Victoria Hall, June 16th, 1883, aged 9 years. In the midst of life we are in death.

The janitor and several adults made an attempt to rescue the crushed children and redirect others to another exit. The bodies were laid in the ground floor of the hall where doctors tried to resuscitate. The streets filled with families and onlookers. The screams of terrified parents were silenced an hour later when a procession of cabs transported families with their dead children back to their homes.

Those who were lucky to survive include Maggie Gills who clung to a handrail which saved her from certain death. Inez Coe who was handicapped managed to wedge her crutch across the angle of the wall thus preventing her from being crushed. Eleven year old George Graham was the first boy to run down the stairs before the crush. He told the Echo: “When I got to the door, I found it was fast. I took my little brother in my arms and went upstairs again as fast as I could. I set my brother on a windowsill and so saved our lives. I stopped there a long time.”

“In one case, a little girl was stopped as she walked along Tatham Street, carrying her dead sister home. A passer-by called for a cab and paid for it.”

National and international newspapers ran the story. Queen Victoria sent a message of condolence sating that ‘her heart bleeds for the sufferings of the many bereaved parents, and she prays God to support them in their terrible distress.’

All homes closed their drapes and local businesses closed as a mark of respect as the children were buried over the following four days. A memorial fund, a donation by Queen Victoria and public donations from all over the country paid for the funerals, and the remaining balance was to be used to purchase a memorial. The dead were buried in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, Mere Knolls Cemetery, Holy Trinity Churchyard, and Sunderland Cemetery where the graves were dug in three rows the centre of which was reserved for placement of a memorial.

A memorial of a life size white marble statue depicting a grieving mother holding her dead child was erected in Mowbray Park. It was later moved to Bishopwearmouth Cemetery where it gradually fell into disrepair, and was vandalised. In 2002 the marble statue was restored and returned to Mowbray Park with a protective canopy.

Two inquiries were held but no one was held accountable. As a result of the disaster Parliament passed a law that required all entertainment venues to have bar-operated exit doors that open outwards. This law is still in effect today. The hall remained open for decades after but was destroyed by a German bomb in 1941.

The following links give detailed reports of the accident from newspapers in London, England; New York Times, USA; and Lauceston, Tasmania.

London Times newspaper reports of the inquiry results:

A poem written by William McGonagall:
The Sunderland Calamity
’Twas in the town of Sunderland, and in the year of 1883,
That about 200 children were launch’d into eternity
While witnessing an entertainment in Victoria Hall,
While they, poor little innocents, to God for help did call.

The entertainment consisted of conjuring, and the ghost illusion play,
Also talking waxworks, and living marionettes, and given by Mr. Fay;
And on this occasion, presents were to be given away,
But in their anxiety of getting presents they wouldn’t brook delay,
And that is the reason why so many lives have been taken away;
But I hope their precious souls are in heaven to-day.

As soon as the children began to suspect
That they would lose their presents by neglect,
They rush’d from the gallery, and ran down the stairs pell-mell,
And trampled one another to death, according as they fell.

As soon as the catastrophe became known throughout the boro’
The people’s hearts were brim-full of sorrow,
And parents rush’d to the Hall terror-stricken and wild,
And each one was anxious to find their own child.

Oh! it must have been a most horrible sight
To see the dear little children struggling with all their might
To get out at the door at the foot of the stair,
While one brave little boy did repeat the Lord’s Prayer.

The innocent children were buried seven or eight layers deep,
The sight was heart-rending and enough to make one weep;
It was a most affecting spectacle and frightful to behold
The corpse of a little boy not above four years old,

Who had on a top-coat much too big for him,
And his little innocent face was white and grim,
And appearing to be simply in a calm sleep-
The sight was enough to make one’s flesh to creep.

The scene in the Hall was heart-sickening to behold,
And enough to make one’s blood run cold.
To see the children’s faces, blackened, that were trampled to death,
And their parents lamenting o’er them with bated breath.

Oh! it was most lamentable for to hear
The cries of the mothers for their children dear;
And many mothers swooned in grief away
At the sight of their dead children in grim array.

There was a parent took home a boy by mistake,
And after arriving there his heart was like to break
When it was found to be the body of a neighbour’s child;
The parent stood aghast and was like to go wild.

A man and his wife rush’d madly in the Hall,
And loudly in grief on their children they did call,
And the man searched for his children among the dead
Seemingly without the least fear or dread.

And with his finger pointing he cried. “That’s one! two!
Oh! heaven above, what shall I do;”
And still he kept walking on and murmuring very low.
Until he came to the last child in the row;

Then he cried, “Good God! all my family gone
And now I am left to mourn alone;”
And staggering back he cried, “Give me water, give me water!”
While his heart was like to break and his teeth seem’d to chatter.

Oh, heaven! it must have been most pitiful to see
Fathers with their dead children upon their knee
While the blood ran copiously from their mouths and ears
And their parents shedding o’er them hot burning tears.

I hope the Lord will comfort their parents by night and by day,
For He gives us life and He takes it away,
Therefore I hope their parents will put their trust in Him,
Because to weep for the dead it is a sin.

Her Majesty’s grief for the bereaved parents has been profound,
And I’m glad to see that she has sent them £50;
And I hope from all parts of the world will flow relief
To aid and comfort the bereaved parents in their grief.

Images Used

Mors Ianua Vitae: Death is the gate of life