Traditional Chinese festivals are perhaps one of the most important parts of Chinese culture and the country’s history. Being culturally diverse and economically empowered, China is perhaps one of the countries to have several culture-based festivals, full of glamor and are an absolute joy to be a part of or a great show to watch on TV. While these festivals are a part of their ancient times, almost all of them are based on the lunar calendar and are somehow linked to various myths, religious devotions, and superstitions that bind the people.
One of the most popular Chinese festivals is the Qingming Festival which has been celebrated for centuries. Let’s learn more about it.
The Qingming Festival has a history of more than 2500 years and was known by different names in ancient times, such as Taqing Festival, March Festival, Ancestor Worship Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Festival, Ghost Festival, and others. is a traditional Chinese festival that is observed by ethnic Chinese people in mainland China and around the world. It falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, which usually falls on April 4th or 5th.
During the Qingming Festival, families gather to pay respects to their ancestors by visiting and cleaning their graves, offering food, burning incense, and making offerings of paper money and other items that the deceased may need in the afterlife. It is also a time for families to come together to remember their loved ones and to show filial piety, which is a Confucian virtue that emphasizes respect for one’s elders and ancestors.
In addition to paying respects to ancestors, the Qingming Festival is also a time to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate the beauty of nature. Many people take advantage of the mild spring weather to have picnics or fly kites.
Qingming festival history
The traditional Qingming Festival of the Han ethnic group in China dates back over 2,500 years to the Zhou Dynasty. Influenced by Han culture, 24 minority ethnic groups in China, including the Manchu, Hezhe, Zhuang, Oroqen, Dong, Tujia, Miao, Yao, Li, Shui, Jing, and Qiang, also have customs related to Qingming Festival. Although customs vary from region to region, tomb-sweeping and outings to the countryside are the basic themes.
Qingming was originally only a name for a solar term, and its transformation into a festival to commemorate ancestors is related to the Cold Food Festival. The Duke Wen of Jin designated the day after the Cold Food Festival as Qingming Festival. In most parts of Shanxi province, the Cold Food Festival is observed on the day before Qingming Festival, while in some places like Yushexian, it is observed two days before Qingming. Yuanqu county even has the tradition of observing Cold Food Festival one day before Qingming, and Little Cold Food Festival two days before.
The origin of the Qingming Festival is said to have started with the ancient practice of “grave-sweeping” by emperors and officials. Later, this practice was adopted by the common people, and over time, it became a fixed custom for the Chinese people to offer sacrifices to their ancestors and sweep their graves on this day. Originally, the Cold Food Festival and Qingming Festival were two different holidays. During the Tang Dynasty, the day for offering sacrifices and sweeping graves was designated as the Cold Food Festival. The correct date for the Cold Food Festival is 105 days after the Winter Solstice, around the time of Qingming. Because the two holidays are close together, they were combined into one day. During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, offering sacrifices and sweeping graves during the Cold Food Festival was made one of the “Five Rituals,” making tomb-sweeping an important social custom during the Qingming Festival.
When is Qingming Festival?
What Day Is Qingming Festival On The Lunar Calendar? The Qingming Festival is also known as the Tomb-sweeping Day or the Pure Brightness Festival, or Ching Ming Festival. It is celebrated on the 4th or 5th day of April in the Gregorian calendar, the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. There are times when it could land on the 6th of April, depending on the days of that specific year.
It is also known as Ancestors’ Day or the Chinese Memorial Day, and it is among the Chinese 24 Solar Terms. From the 4th or 5th of April, temperatures in the country begin to rise, and rainfall gradually increases. When this happens, the Chinese know that it is time to plow and sow in the spring. For this reason, the festival is directly associated with agricultural matters. Even so, it is not necessarily a seasonal symbol but a day to pay respect to the dead, pay attention to other activities, and take time to embark on a Spring outing.
It has been observed by the Han Chinese, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Macau, for over 2500 years. Even so, there are significant changes in how it is celebrated over the years.
How to celebrate Qingming Festival?
The Qingming Festival involves several activities such as taking a spring outing, tomb-sweeping, and flying kites. There are also other activities such as riding on swings and wearing willow branches on the head. While it is often filled with nostalgia and sadness, there are always multiple instances of infinite joy throughout the day.
The most important custom in the Qingming Festival is tomb sweeping. The Chinese pay respect to the dead person, then clean their tomb as a way of remembering them and showing that their spirit lives on. They take time to clear out any weeds that have grown around the tomb and add fresh soil to show that they care for their loved ones. Thereafter, they offer the dead person’s favorite food, and wine as a sacrifice. They burn this together with papers that resemble money. They do this to affirm that the dead person does not lack any food or riches in the afterlife.
While this is the main practice, times have changed and now, cremation has taken over burying. So, if the person was cremated, all the Chinese do is offer flowers to the revolutionary martyrs and relatives. They also take time to pray for them.
While commemorating the dead brings a wave of sad emotion in everyone, the Chinese couple the festival with a time when people can enjoy themselves. During March, the grass is greener, almost all flowers in the country blossom, and the sun shines brighter than ever. So, in preparation for the Tomb-sweeping day, everyone goes out to appreciate the beautiful parts of nature. This custom started during the reign of the Tang dynasty and still exists up to date.
Also, the Chinese celebrate the Qingming Festival by flying kites during the day and in the evening. They tie little lanterns to the kite so that when the kite is flying in the sky, they look like twinkling stars at night. The special part of this custom is that people gather to cut the string and allow the kite to fly freely into the sky as a sign of letting go. They believe that by doing this, they are inviting good luck in their lives and can potentially eliminate diseases.
Customs of Qingming Festival
The Chinese people have had the custom of Qingming outing since ancient times. Outing, also known as exploring or seeking spring, refers to walking or strolling in the outskirts in early spring. It is a seasonal folk activity with a long history in China, and its origin can be traced back to the ancient agricultural sacrificial ceremony of welcoming spring, which had a profound influence on later generations. Qingming Festival combines the connotations of both solar term and festival, providing important conditions for the formation of the Qingming outing custom in terms of time and meteorological phenology. During Qingming, spring is in the air and the whole nature presents a lively scene, making it a perfect time for an outing. People take advantage of the occasion to not only sweep tombs but also enjoy leisure time with their families in the countryside.
Around Qingming, the spring sun shines and the spring rain falls, which means the survival rate and growth rate of tree seedlings are high. Therefore, there is a custom of planting trees during Qingming, and some people even call Qingming Festival “Tree Planting Day”. The custom of tree planting has been passed down to this day. The tradition of planting trees during Qingming Festival is said to have originated from the custom of wearing and inserting willow branches during Qingming.
Kites, also known as paper birds, are a favorite activity for people during Qingming. Not only during the day, but also at night, people fly kites. At night, they hang strings of colorful lanterns under or on the kite line, which sparkle like stars and are called “god lights”. In the past, some people cut the kite string after flying it into the blue sky, letting the wind carry it to the ends of the earth, which was believed to ward off diseases and bring good luck.
Qingming, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a day to pay respects to ancestors. It is an ancient tradition to show filial piety and remembrance towards our ancestors by sweeping their tombs. The act of tomb sweeping is a way to honor and respect our ancestors, and to cherish their memory.
Tug-of-War, also known as “hook pulling” or “strong hook”, was first called “tug-of-war” during the Tang Dynasty. It is said to have originated in the late Spring and Autumn period, and was initially popular among the military before spreading to the general public. During the Tang Dynasty, a large-scale tug-of-war competition was held on Qingming Day, which marked the beginning of tug-of-war as a Qingming custom.
Swinging is one of the ancient customs of Qingming Festival in China. The history of swinging is very old, originally called “thousand autumn swings”, which was later changed to “autumn swings” to avoid taboo. In ancient times, swings were mostly made from tree branches and ribbons. Later, they gradually developed into swings made of two ropes and a pedal. Swinging not only promotes physical health, but also fosters bravery and courage, and is still loved by people, especially children, today.
In ancient times, cockfighting was a popular game during Qingming Festival. Cockfighting began on Qingming Day and continued until the summer solstice. The earliest record of cockfighting in China can be found in the “Zuo Zhuan”. During the Tang Dynasty, cockfighting became popular, and even the emperor participated in it. Emperor Xuanzong of Tang was especially fond of cockfighting.
Archery was a game to practice archery skills. According to records from the Ming Dynasty, a pigeon was placed in a gourd, which was then hung on a willow tree. The player would shoot the gourd with a bow and arrow, and the pigeon would fly out. The winner was determined by the height the pigeon flew.
Cuju is a type of ball game played with a leather ball stuffed with hair, and it involves kicking the ball with one’s feet. It was a popular game during the Qingming Festival in ancient times, especially in northern China. Legend has it that it was invented by Huangdi to train his warriors. During the Qing Dynasty, there was also polo played near the Temple of Heaven, but it disappeared in the mid-Qing Dynasty.
The Silkworm Flower Festival is a unique folk culture of silkworm-producing areas. During the Qingming Festival, there were celebrations in Wutong, Wuzhen, Chongfu, and Zhouquan. The Silkworm Flower Festival in Ma Ming Temple in Zhouquan and Shuangmiao Temple in Qingshi were the most spectacular. These events included more than ten activities such as welcoming the silkworm god, rocking the boat, raising the stage, bowing to the incense, boxing, dragon lanterns, high pole jumping, and singing operas. Some activities were held onshore, but most of them were held on boats, which had a strong water-town character.
Qingming Festival Food
During the Qingming Festival, people only eat food once they have already offered food to the ancestors. The day before Tomb Sweeping Day is the traditional Chinese Cold Food Day. Eventually, the two festivals become one. On Cold Food Day, people avoid cooking using fire and prefer to eat cold food. People do this on the Qingming Festival day as well.
Even so, different countries have different foods set aside for the Qingming Festival. The primary Qingming festival foods are peach blossom porridge with rice in it, Qingming snails, sweet green rice balls, crispy cakes, and eggs. All these delicacies are cooked a day or two before the festival so that people can eat them while cold or recreate it during the holiday.
History of the Qingming Festival
Most historical documents record that the Qingming Festival was first held to pay homage to a loyal man name Jie Zitui, living in the Spring and Autumn Periods. He cut a part of meat from his leg to rescue his hungry master when he was exiled when the crown was endangered. When the master/lord returned to his position about 19 years later, he forgot about his loyal servant, Jie. However, as time went by, he chose to reward his servant.
At the time, Jie and his mother went up to a mountain and blocked themself there. To find Jie, the lord ordered his other servants to set the mountain on fire. His efforts were in vain, and a few days later, he found Jie and his mother died. To commemorate the day that Jie died, the Cold Food (Hanshi) Festival came into being.
In the second year after Jie’s death, the lord went up the mountain to sacrifice Jie during Springtime. He found that the willows revived fully, flowers blossomed, and the grass was green. Because of this, he instructed that the day after Hanshi should be Qingming Festival. Based on this background, we can understand why the two festivals are interlinked.
Qingming festival story
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, has a long history that dates back over 2,500 years to the Zhou Dynasty in China. It is said that the festival originated as a way to commemorate a loyal court official named Jie Zitui, who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).
According to legend, Jie Zitui was known for his selfless dedication to his prince and the people of his kingdom. He lived a simple life, and when a famine struck the kingdom, he sacrificed his own flesh to provide food for his prince, who had been forced into exile. The prince later returned to the throne and rewarded Jie with a high-ranking position in the court. However, Jie refused to accept the position and retired to a remote mountain with his elderly mother.
Years later, the prince, now emperor, remembered Jie and went to visit him in the mountain. But Jie, who had lived a life of seclusion and poverty, refused to meet with the emperor. The emperor set fire to the mountain in an attempt to force Jie out of hiding, but Jie perished in the flames alongside his mother.
The emperor was filled with remorse and ordered that the day of Jie’s death be designated as Qingming Festival, a day to honor and remember loyal and virtuous subjects. Over time, the festival became associated with ancestor worship and tomb-sweeping, as people used the occasion to pay respect to their ancestors and tidy up their graves.
how did the Qingming festival originate
In ancient times, there were also the festivals of Shangsi and Hanshi before Qingming Festival. As the three festivals of Shangsi, Hanshi, and Qingming are close to each other and their customs overlap and merge, they gradually formed the present Qingming Festival without clear boundaries.
There is a folk saying, “On the second day of the second lunar month, the dragon lifts its head, and on the third day of the third lunar month, we see Xuan Yuan.” Shangsi Festival was originally a commemorative festival for the human ancestor Xuanyuan Huangdi, set on the first Si day of March every year, and was fixed on the third day of March after the Wei and Jin dynasties. Shangsi Festival had been prevalent since the Spring and Autumn period 3,000 years ago. Its main activities were “worshiping the dead and sweeping tombs,” “spring bathing,” “drinking and banqueting by the water,” and “spring outings,” making it the most important festival in the ancient “purification and bathing” activities.
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, originated in ancient China and has a history of over 2,500 years. Its origin is said to be related to the Cold Food Festival, which was observed by the ancient Chinese people to mark the start of spring and the planting season. The Duke Wen of Jin designated the day after the Cold Food Festival as Qingming Festival, a day for offering sacrifices to ancestors and sweeping their graves. This practice was adopted by the common people and over time became a fixed custom for the Chinese people.
During the Tang Dynasty, tomb-sweeping during the Cold Food Festival was made one of the “Five Rituals,” and the day for offering sacrifices and sweeping graves was designated as the Cold Food Festival. The correct date for the Cold Food Festival is 105 days after the Winter Solstice, around the time of Qingming. Because the two holidays are close together, they were combined into one day, which is now known as the Qingming Festival.
Today, the Qingming Festival is observed by ethnic Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of the world. It is a time to remember and pay respects to ancestors, and many people visit their ancestors’ graves, sweep the tombs, and offer food, flowers, and other offerings. It is also a time to enjoy the spring weather and go on outings to the countryside.
what is the significance of the Qingming festival?
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, has several significant meanings for the Chinese people.
Firstly, it is a day for remembering and honoring one’s ancestors. Chinese people visit the graves of their ancestors, clean the tombs, and offer food, flowers, and other offerings. This is a way of showing respect and gratitude for the sacrifices and contributions made by their forefathers.
Secondly, the Qingming Festival marks the beginning of spring, a time of renewal and growth. It is a time when nature comes back to life, flowers bloom, and the weather becomes warmer. This is why many people also take advantage of the pleasant weather to go out for a picnic or to enjoy nature.
Lastly, the Qingming Festival is an important occasion for family reunions. It is a time when family members come together to pay their respects to their ancestors, but also to spend time with each other and strengthen family bonds.
Overall, the Qingming Festival is a time for reflection, renewal, and family. It is a time for the Chinese people to remember their past, celebrate the present, and look forward to the future.
how long is Qingming festival
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is a one-day festival observed on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. This falls on either April 4th or 5th in the Gregorian calendar. However, in practice, the Qingming Festival is often celebrated for a period of several days, with many people taking time off from work to visit their ancestors’ graves and spend time with family.
why do we celebrate Qingming festival?
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is celebrated for several reasons:
Honoring ancestors: The festival is a way to pay respects to one’s ancestors and deceased loved ones by visiting their graves, cleaning and tidying up the burial sites, and offering food, flowers, and other sacrifices. This is done to show gratitude and respect for their contributions to the family and society.
Marking the arrival of spring: The Qingming Festival falls around the time of the spring equinox, which marks the beginning of spring in China. This is a time of renewal, growth, and rebirth in nature, and the festival is a way to celebrate the changing of the seasons.
Promoting family reunions: The Qingming Festival is a time for families to come together and spend time with each other. Family members often travel long distances to visit their ancestral homes and to pay respects to their ancestors. It is also an occasion for family members to catch up with each other and strengthen family bonds.
Overall, the Qingming Festival is an important cultural holiday in China that reflects the values of filial piety, respect for ancestors, and family unity.
What is the symbol of Qingming Festival?
The Qingming Festival is associated with several symbols in Chinese culture, including:
Qingming Cake: This is a traditional food eaten during the festival, which is made of glutinous rice flour and bean paste, and often shaped like a small cupcake.
Willow branches: It is traditional to decorate graves with willow branches during the Qingming Festival. Willow branches are also often used to make wreaths and other decorations.
Tomb Sweeping: One of the key activities during the Qingming Festival is tomb sweeping, which involves cleaning and tidying up ancestral graves. This is done as a way of showing respect to ancestors and paying homage to their legacy.
Spring outings: It is also traditional to go on spring outings during the Qingming Festival, which may involve picnics, kite-flying, and other outdoor activities.
Overall, the Qingming Festival is associated with a range of symbols that reflect the themes of renewal, respect, and family unity.
Why do people sweep tombs during Qingming Festival?
People sweep tombs during the Qingming Festival as a way of showing respect and paying homage to their ancestors. In Chinese culture, ancestors are believed to play an important role in the lives of their descendants, and it is therefore important to honor their memory and seek their blessings.
Tomb sweeping involves cleaning and tidying up the graves of ancestors, as well as offering food, flowers, and other offerings. This is done as a way of expressing filial piety and gratitude towards one’s ancestors, and seeking their protection and blessings for the coming year.
In addition to tomb sweeping, people may also burn incense, joss paper, and other offerings as a way of communicating with their ancestors and seeking their guidance and protection. The Qingming Festival is therefore an important occasion for families to come together and pay tribute to their ancestors, and to reinforce the bonds of family and community.
What should you not do during Qingming?
Taboos of Tomb Sweeping during Qingming Festival:
Fasting and avoiding meat: On the morning of Tomb Sweeping Day, when you arrive at the tomb, it is better to eat a vegetarian meal and dress neatly to show respect and politeness to your ancestors.
Be careful with safety: When burning paper money and offering sacrifices, pay attention to fire safety to ensure safety. Try to bring your own belongings and avoid buying vessels from vendors near the worship site. If you have to buy something, prepare small change in advance, put it in a convenient pocket, and keep large amounts of cash hidden to avoid being stolen.
Choose the right day: Try to avoid weekends or other peak periods of Tomb Sweeping. Because there are more private cars now, the peak period of Tomb Sweeping may cause traffic congestion and trouble. You can choose to take various public transportation or extend the Tomb Sweeping time (early departure and late return) or stagger the peak period to ease the pressure of road traffic.
Count your belongings: Develop a good habit of counting your belongings at all times, both when you arrive at the worship site and when you leave, to avoid accidentally losing valuable items. You should regularly count the number of people in the group, especially if you have children, take care of them to prevent them from getting lost while playing.
Avoid remote areas: Do not go to remote and inaccessible places for worship. It is best to make a plan based on the route you often take. Do not stay in remote places for too long to ensure your safety.
Do not disturb other spirits: The cemetery is where the spirits reside. Do not laugh, curse, run around, or defecate anywhere. In other graves, do not step on the tombstone with your feet or touch the burial objects of other graves. If you encounter them, sincerely apologize and say “sorry for disturbing you”. Keep your words of praise reserved for the cemetery and control your emotions and attitude to avoid disturbing other spirits.
Choose the right time: Try to choose a sunny time to sweep the tomb. It is not good for Tomb Sweeping in the early morning or evening. You should avoid sweeping the tomb as much as possible. The best time to sweep the tomb is usually from 10 am to 3 pm.
Clean up the tomb: Facing the ancestors’ tomb, clear the weeds, loosen the soil, tidy up the surrounding environment, and make the tomb look full and tidy. At the same time, silently pray in your heart, place your hope in the afterlife, and pray that your ancestors will make your descendants flourish.
Avoid pregnant women from sweeping the tomb: Generally, pregnant women should avoid Tomb Sweeping activities during Qingming Festival, especially after 3 pm. Most places where Tomb Sweeping takes place are remote and deserted, and pregnant women are more likely to have accidents due to excessive fatigue or discomfort.
Prohibition of tomb-sweeping and sacrifice for certain zodiacanimals on Qingming Festival
Zodiac Tiger: As the zodiac Tiger clashes with the Tai Sui (Grand Duke Jupiter) this year in the Year of Monkey, which is believed to bring bad luck and misfortune, it is best for people born in the Year of the Tiger to avoid tomb-sweeping and offering sacrifices on Qingming Festival.
Zodiac Monkey: As it is the self-owned year of the zodiac Monkey, it is also believed to be a relatively unlucky year. The occurrence of bad luck is likely when someone enters their self-owned year and offends the Tai Sui. Therefore, it is best for people born in the Year of the Monkey to avoid tomb-sweeping and offering sacrifices on Qingming Festival.
Zodiac Dragon and Dog: Those born in the Year of the Dragon may experience some difficulty with elderly relatives this year, and it is believed that family members may pass away. Those born in the Year of the Dog may also face difficulties and sadness at home. Due to their low luck and misfortune, it is best for people born in the Year of the Dragon and Dog to avoid tomb-sweeping and offering sacrifices on Qingming Festival. If they must go, it is recommended to take a bath with pomelo leaves after returning home to wash away any misfortune.
what to prepare for Qingming
Qingming Festival offers items: incense, candles, paper money, fresh flowers, wine, fruits, vegetarian food, pastries, firecrackers, brooms, hoes, hanging greenery, and willow branches.
Incense and Candles
Incense and candles are the most important items for tomb-sweeping during Qingming Festival. They are not only used to light up the tomb, but also to offer to the mountain god and land god who guard the cemetery, praying for their protection and blessing for the deceased.
Offering incense to ancestors is essential in Chinese culture. Lighting incense is believed to notify the ancestors of the presence of their descendants. Incense also symbolizes the continuity of family traditions. If using candles, white candles are preferred. When burning joss paper, it is recommended to burn paper money made of hemp.
Paper money is burnt as an offering to the deceased, so that they will have money to spend in the afterlife. It should be burnt completely.
Wine and Vegetarian Food
During the tomb-sweeping process, it is like a feast for the deceased, so it is necessary to offer wine and vegetarian food to them.
Fruits and Pastries
It is best to offer seasonal fruits, and the pastries can be chosen according to the situation.
When visiting ancestors’ graves during the Qingming Festival, the first thing we need to prepare is fruit. According to the elders, in order to bring good luck, we should prepare five different types of fruit, symbolizing the bountiful harvest of the five grains and the academic success of the five sons. Among these five types of fruit, grapes should be avoided, as well as pears and other fruits with negative connotations. Additionally, we should not bring hollow fruits.
The elderly say that according to superstition, fruits represent yin and pastries represent yang. In order to have good luck and prosperity, fruits and pastries are a must-have and cannot be lacking.
Rice and Dishes
It is best to offer the deceased’s favorite dishes. Many people will also tell their children about the deceased’s life stories while paying respects, so that the next generation will not forget their ancestors.
Chrysanthemums are a symbol of remembrance and nostalgia, and are commonly used during Qingming Festival. White chrysanthemums are especially suitable for this occasion. In ancient China, chrysanthemums were regarded as a flower of remembrance and nostalgia. White lilies are also suitable for tomb-sweeping.
In Chinese culture, the chrysanthemum is endowed with the noble character of perseverance and unyielding spirit due to its ability to bloom in the frost and cold wind without falling. Its attitude of “no flowers remain when this flower is in full bloom” also symbolizes a noble and dignified spirit. In addition, chrysanthemums bloom in September, which is considered the largest and most auspicious of the single-digit numbers, known as the “ultimate number” or “yang number.” Therefore, chrysanthemums, like the Double Ninth Festival which falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, are endowed with auspicious and long-lasting implications. White and yellow chrysanthemums are commonly used for Qingming Festival, with yellow symbolizing remembrance and white symbolizing mourning. However, if an elderly person over the age of 80 passes away, the proportion of red and pink flowers can be increased appropriately, as these warm colors better reflect the endless love and affection of their descendants.
“Bao Bu” (The Offering Bag)
“Bao Bu” is the bag of food and clothing that tomb-sweepers (relatives of the deceased) bring for the deceased. It is named after the large bag made of white paper, and contains paper money, gold and silver, and various paper items such as “yuanbao”, clothes, furniture, etc. “Burning Bao Bu” is an important form of offering to the deceased. Burning it means that these items have been sent to the deceased.
Hanging greenery is one of the activities during Qingming Festival. “If there are sons, white paper is hung on the grave; if there are no sons, dog feces is thrown on the grave.” “If there are sons, white paper is hung on the grave, if there are no sons, grass and trees are green.” Whether or not there is hanging greenery on a tomb is a symbol of whether a family has descendants, is prosperous and filial. The more hanging greenery there is on a tomb, the more prosperous the family is. In southern Hunan, paper garlands made of white paper are hung in front of the tomb, called “hanging greenery” or “hanging qing”. In some parts of southern Hunan, it is called “hanging qiang”. It is also explained as “hanging relatives”.
Brooms and Hoes
Brooms and hoes are used to facilitate the cleaning of weeds and garbage on the tomb, and are also a way of showing respect to ancestors.
There is a custom of wearing willow branches during Qingming Festival. People often bring back a few branches of willow during tomb-sweeping and wear them on their door lintels or make willow hats to wear on their heads.
When Chinese people go to visit graves and pay respects to their ancestors, they only hope that the paper money and other items they burn are received by their own ancestors and not other ghosts. Therefore, the purpose of setting off firecrackers after visiting the graves is to drive away other ghosts who may try to steal from their ancestors.
what to pray for Qingming
Qingming is a traditional Chinese festival that falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. It is a time to pay respect to ancestors and deceased loved ones by visiting their graves, cleaning the tombs, and making offerings.
When praying during Qingming, people typically ask for blessings for their ancestors, such as good health, happiness, and prosperity in the afterlife. They may also pray for guidance and protection for themselves and their family members. It is a time to express gratitude for the sacrifices and contributions of ancestors and to seek their blessings and support for a peaceful and prosperous life.
Why Insert Willows on Qingming Festival
There are four different explanations for the custom of planting willow branches during the Qingming Festival:
Commemorating the agricultural god Shen Nong: It is said that the custom of planting willow branches is to commemorate Shen Nong, the ancestor of agriculture who taught people how to cultivate crops. In some places, people insert willow branches under the eaves to predict the weather. There is an ancient proverb that goes, “Green willow branches indicate drizzling rain; dry willow branches mean clear skies.” Willows have strong vitality, and there is a saying that “if one plants flowers with care, they may not blossom; if one inserts willow branches without care, they will flourish.” Willow branches can take root wherever they are inserted, and they will grow and flourish year after year.
Exorcising evil spirits: Qingming, along with the Ghost Festival in July and the Beginning of Winter in October, is considered one of the three major ghost festivals in China. Qingming is a time when ghosts are said to wander freely and seek offerings. Influenced by Buddhism, some people believe that willow branches can exorcise evil spirits, and call them “ghost-frightening wood.” In the book “Essentials of Agriculture and Forestry” by Jia Sixie of the Northern Wei dynasty, it is written that “placing willow branches on the door keeps a hundred ghosts from entering.” Therefore, during Qingming, people insert willow branches and wear them to ward off evil spirits.
Commemorating Jie Zitui: Jie Zitui burned himself to death under a large willow tree to show his loyalty to his lord. The following year, when the Duke Wen of Jin and his officials climbed the mountain to pay their respects to Jie Zitui, they found that the old willow tree that had been burned down the year before had miraculously come back to life. Duke Wen of Jin immediately named the tree “Qingming Willow” and broke off a few branches to wear on his head in memory of Jie Zitui. From then on, officials and commoners followed suit, and the custom of planting and wearing willow branches during Qingming became a symbol of commemorating Jie Zitui.
Praying for the blessings of future generations: During the Qingming season, the weather gets warmer and willow trees sprout new leaves, showing their vitality. Planting willow branches on graves is a way of praying for the protection of ancestors and the prosperity of future generations.
Why is Tomb Sweeping Day important?
Tomb Sweeping Day, also known as Qingming Festival, is an important traditional Chinese holiday for paying respects to ancestors and deceased loved ones. It is a time for Chinese people to visit and clean the graves of their ancestors, offer flowers and food, and burn incense and paper offerings as a sign of respect.
This holiday is important because it helps to maintain a connection between the living and the dead, and to honor and remember ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. It is also a time for families to come together and pay their respects as a group, strengthening family bonds and passing on traditions to younger generations.
In addition to tomb sweeping, Qingming Festival is also associated with other traditional activities such as flying kites, wearing willow branches or flowers, and enjoying time outdoors in the spring weather.
Qingming Festival and Taoism
Qingming Festival has a significant connection with Taoism, a philosophical and religious tradition that originated in ancient China. In Taoism, death is viewed as a natural and essential part of the cycle of life, and honoring ancestors is a way to maintain a connection with them and their wisdom.
During Qingming Festival, Taoist practitioners visit the graves of their ancestors to offer sacrifices and perform rituals to show respect and gratitude. They may also use the occasion to reflect on the impermanence of life and the importance of living in harmony with nature.
In addition, the concept of “feng shui” plays a role in Taoist practices related to Qingming Festival. Taoist principles of energy flow and balance are applied to the placement of graves and the selection of burial sites to ensure that the deceased rest in a place that is harmonious with the natural environment and conducive to the peaceful repose of their souls.
Overall, Qingming Festival is an important time for Taoist practitioners to honor their ancestors, contemplate the nature of life and death, and renew their commitment to living in harmony with the natural world.
Qingming Festival and Yin Yang
In traditional Chinese culture, the concept of Yin Yang is closely related to the Qingming Festival. According to the Yin Yang theory, the Qingming Festival is the time when the Yang energy is at its strongest, which means it is a time for action, outdoor activities, and connecting with nature. This is why people traditionally go out to sweep the graves of their ancestors, plant trees, and fly kites during this festival.
On the other hand, the Yin energy, which is associated with darkness and rest, is also present during this time. This is reflected in the fact that Qingming Festival is also a time for paying respects to the deceased and reflecting on the impermanence of life. The balance between Yin and Yang is important in Chinese culture, and the Qingming Festival is a time when people try to maintain that balance by both celebrating life and honoring the dead.
Qingming Festival and 24 solar terms
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is one of the 24 solar terms in the Chinese lunar calendar. It usually falls on April 4th or 5th and marks the time when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 15 degrees.
In the agricultural society of ancient China, the Qingming Festival was a crucial time for farmers to plant crops and tend to their land. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the souls of the deceased also needed to be tended to during this time. Thus, the festival became a time to honor and pay respects to ancestors by sweeping tombs, offering sacrifices, and burning incense.
Taoism, one of the major religions in China, also observes the Qingming Festival. Taoist practitioners believe that this day is particularly important for making offerings to ancestors and for spiritual cultivation. They may visit temples, light candles, burn incense, and perform rituals to connect with their ancestors and seek blessings for themselves and their families.
Overall, the Qingming Festival serves as an important cultural and religious holiday in China, marking a time for both agricultural and spiritual renewal.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival
“Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is a famous Chinese painting created during the Song Dynasty by artist Zhang Zeduan. It depicts a bustling scene of daily life along the Bian River in the capital city of Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng) during the Qingming Festival.
The painting captures the vibrant energy of the city as people go about their daily activities, such as shopping, boating, and socializing. It also includes details of the architecture and landscapes of the city, including temples, bridges, and gardens.
The painting has become an iconic representation of traditional Chinese culture and is highly regarded for its artistic and historical significance. It is considered one of the most important works of Chinese art, and has been praised for its attention to detail, composition, and use of color.
Qingming Poetry and Prose
Tang · Du Mu
In the drizzling rain of Qingming season, Travelers on the road are filled with despair. “Where can I find a tavern?” I ask with a sigh, A cowherd points to Apricot Blossom Village nearby.
Ching Ming Festival vs Day of the Dead
The Ching Ming Festival and the Day of the Dead are two distinct cultural holidays that share some similarities, but also have many differences.
The Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese holiday that falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, usually on April 4th or 5th. It is a day for people to pay respects to their ancestors and visit their graves. The holiday involves cleaning the graves, offering food, burning incense, and other rituals. It is seen as a time to honor the deceased and ensure that their spirits are at peace.
The Day of the Dead, on the other hand, is a Mexican holiday that takes place on November 1st and 2nd. It is a time for families to gather and remember their loved ones who have passed away. The holiday is known for its colorful decorations, including altars and offerings to the dead, as well as parades and other festivities. It is believed that during the Day of the Dead, the souls of the departed return to visit their living relatives.
Both holidays involve honoring the dead and celebrating their lives, but they have different cultural origins and traditions. The Ching Ming Festival is rooted in Chinese culture and has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, while the Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday with indigenous and Catholic influences that dates back to pre-Hispanic times.
Overall, while both holidays share some similarities, they are distinct cultural celebrations with their own unique customs and traditions.
Ching Ming Festival vs Halloween
The Ching Ming Festival and Halloween are both annual events with historical and cultural significance, but they are celebrated differently and have different origins.
The Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese festival that usually falls in early April. It is a time for families to honor and pay respects to their ancestors by visiting their graves, cleaning the tombstones, offering food, burning incense, and making other offerings. It is a solemn occasion with a focus on family and respect for the deceased.
Halloween, on the other hand, is a Western holiday celebrated on October 31st. It has pagan roots and is associated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people believed that the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred and spirits could cross over into the world of the living. Today, Halloween is mainly known for dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and other festive activities.
While both holidays involve a connection to the dead, the Ching Ming Festival and Halloween have different tones and meanings. The Ching Ming Festival is about remembering and honoring ancestors in a respectful and solemn way, while Halloween is more about having fun with spooky and playful traditions.
Ching Ming Festival vs Winter Solstice
Ching Ming Festival and Winter Solstice are two important traditional festivals in China, and they share some similarities in terms of ancestor worship and paying respects to deceased relatives.
However, there are also some differences between the two festivals. Ching Ming Festival is specifically dedicated to visiting and cleaning up the graves of ancestors, while Winter Solstice is a time for families to come together and pay tribute to their ancestors in a broader sense.
Moreover, while both festivals involve burning incense and offering food and other offerings to ancestors, the specific customs and traditions associated with each festival can vary depending on the region and local culture.
Overall, while there are similarities between Ching Ming Festival and Winter Solstice in terms of ancestor worship and respect for tradition, each festival has its own unique characteristics and customs.
The Qingming Festival holiday plays an important role in the culture and history of Chinese culture. It is considered the day with the best spring weather, which is the primary reason why most people travel during this time.
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