Chinese school children lay flowers of remembrance for bear bile farm victims

A student lays flowers on a bear's grave

Tomb Sweeping Day is a chance to pay our respects to lost friends and for their stories to continue being told.

There is a buzz of excitement at the sanctuary around Tomb Sweeping Day, the annual Chinese ceremony to tend the graves of lost friends and relatives.

Having rescued gravely ill bears since 1998, we have had to say goodbye to a great many dear friends, but not one individual is ever forgotten.

There are the tears on the day of their burial, the nights spent looking at the ceiling remembering their quirks and habits, and each year there is Tomb Sweeping Day.?

This ceremony is not a morbid obsession with loss, but a chance to say, “we remember you, we love you, we respect you” to bears who for so long were forgotten, abused and exploited.

At this year’s ceremony, there were speeches from the bear carers who knew each individual best, shared stories and the laying of 100 flowers.

Bear carers lay flowers on bears' graves

There were also three special visitors, Chinese supporters who won a competition to attend the ceremony and pay their personal respects to bears they never met.

That complete strangers are so moved to travel to the sanctuary to offer condolences to bear carers and give their respect to lost bile farm victims is truly humbling.?

It is a testament to the power of the bears’ stories. Stories which continue to shock, galvanise and inspire a new generation.

In the week before Tomb Sweeping Day, 40 primary school children visited the sanctuary. They laid wreaths for the deceased as a mark of respect and gave presentations to their peers about the need to protect bears, not exploit them.

The school has come every year for the last six years, with the trip to the sanctuary now a key part of their education from which they learn to respect the life of all species.

It is a vitally important lesson which all children – when taught – find natural, self-evident and unquestionable.

To see the respect our rescued bears receive on Tomb Sweeping Day – from the young, the public, and their carers – is deeply humbling. And remembering every victim is a vital part of raising awareness and turning public opinion against their brutal exploitation.

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