Qingming Festival - Tomb Sweeping Day

Discussion About Holidays & Events.

Qingming Festival - Tomb Sweeping Day

Postby admin » Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:55 am

The Qingming Festival (simplified Chinese: 清明节; traditional Chinese: 清明節; Mandarin Pinyin: Qīngmíng Jié; Jyutping: Cing ming Zit; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chheng-bêng-cheh or Chhiⁿ-miâ-choeh, Ching Ming Festival in Hong Kong and Macau, Vietnamese: Tết Thanh Minh, Ryukyuan:shīmī) Pure Brightness Festival or Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar (see Chinese calendar). Astronomically it is also a solar term (See Qingming). The Qingming festival falls on the first day of the fifth solar term, named Qingming. Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime (踏青 Tàqīng, "treading on the greenery") and tend to the graves of departed ones.

The holiday is often marked by people paying respects to those who died in events considered sensitive in China. The April Fifth Movement and the Tiananmen Incident were major events on Qingming that took place in the history of the People's Republic of China. When Premier Zhou Enlai died in 1976, thousands visited him during the festival to pay their respects. Many also pay respects to victims of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the graves of Zhao Ziyang and Yang Jia in areas where the right of free expression is generally recognized, as in Hong Kong. In most areas of China observance of sensitive events is suppressed and all public mention of such events is taboo. In Taiwan this national holiday is observed on April 5 because the ruling Kuomintang moved it to that date in commemoration of the death of Chiang Kai-shek.

Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Its observance was reinstated as a nationwide public holiday in mainland China in 2008.

The transcription of the term Qingming may appear in a number of different forms, some of which are Qingming, Qing Ming, Qing Ming Jie, Ching Ming (official in Hong Kong and Macau) and Ch'ing Ming Chieh.


The holiday is known by a number of names in the English language:

All Souls Day (not to be confused with the Roman Catholic holiday, All Souls Day, of the same name)
Clear Bright Festival
Ancestors Day
Festival for Tending Graves
Grave Sweeping Day
Chinese Memorial Day
Tomb Sweeping Day
Spring Remembrance

Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Bright Festival are the most common English translations of Qingming Festival. Tomb Sweeping Day is used in several English language newspapers published in Taiwan.


Qingming Festival is when Chinese people visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors. Traditionally, people brought a whole rooster with them to the graves visited but the occasion has become less formal over time. The festival originated from Hanshi Day (寒食节, literally, Day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui (介子推). Jie Zitui died in 636 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was one of many followers of Duke Wen of Jin(晉文公) before he became a duke. Once, during Wen's 19 years of exile, they had no food and Jie prepared some meat soup for Wen. Wen enjoyed it a lot and wondered where Jie had obtained the soup. It turned out Jie had cut a piece of meat from his own thigh to make the soup. Wen was so moved he promised to reward him one day. However, Jie was not the type of person who sought rewards. Instead, he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become king. Once Wen became duke, Jie resigned and stayed away from him. Duke Wen rewarded the people who helped him in the decades, but for some reason he forgot to reward Jie, who by then had moved into the forest with his mother. Duke Wen went to the forest, but could not find Jie. Heeding suggestions from his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set the forest on fire to force out Jie. However, Jie died in the fire. Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without fire to honour Jie's memory. The city where Jie died is still called Jiexiu (介休, literally "the place Jie rests forever").

Qingming has a tradition stretching back more than 2,500 years. Its origin is credited to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. Emperor Xuanzong, seeking to curb this practice, declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestors' graves only on Qingming. The observance of Qingming found a firm place in Chinese culture and continued since Ancient China


The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors. The rites have a long tradition in Asia, especially among farmers. Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors. They believe that willow branches help ward off the evil spirit that wanders on Qingming.

On Qingming people go on family outings, start the spring plowing, sing, and dance. Qingming is also the time when young couples start courting. Another popular thing to do is to fly kites in the shapes of animals or characters from Chinese opera. Another common practice is to carry flowers instead of burning paper, incense or firecrackers.

In most areas of China observance of sensitive events are suppressed and all public mention of such events is taboo. In Taiwan this national holiday is observed on April 5 because the ruling Kuomintang moved it to that date in commemoration of the death of Chiang Kai-shek on April 5.

Despite having no holiday status, the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asian nations, such as those in Singapore and Malaysia, take this festival seriously and observe its traditions faithfully. Some Qingming rituals and ancestral veneration decorum observed by the oversea Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore can be dated back to Ming and Qing dynasties, as the oversea communities were not affected by the Cultural Revolution in Mainland China. Qingming in Malaysia is an elaborate family function or a clan feast (usually organized by the respective clan association) to commemorate and honour recently deceased relatives at their grave sites and distant ancestors from China at home altars, clan temples or makeshift altars in Buddhist or Taoist temples. For the oversea Chinese community, the Qingming festival is very much a family celebration and, at the same time, a family obligation. They see this festival as a time of reflection and to honour and give thanks to their forefathers. Overseas Chinese normally visit the graves of their recently deceased relatives on the nearest weekend to the actual date. According to the ancient custom, grave site veneration is only feasible ten days before and after the Qingming Festival. If the visit is not on the actual date, normally veneration before Qingming is encouraged. The Qingming Festival in Malaysia and Singapore normally starts early in the morning by paying respect to distant ancestors from China at home altars. This is followed by visiting the graves of close relatives in the country. Some follow the concept of filial piety to the extent of visiting the graves of their ancestors in mainland China. Traditionally, the family will burn spirit money and paper replicas of material goods such as cars, homes, phones and paper servants. In Chinese culture, it is believed that people still need all of those things in the afterlife. Then family members start take turns to kowtow three to nine times (depending on the family adherence to traditional values) before the tomb of the ancestors. The Kowtowing ritual in front of the grave is performed in the order of patriarchal seniority within the family. After the ancestor worship at the grave site, the whole family or the whole clan feast on the food and drink they brought for the worship either at the site or in nearby gardens in the memorial park, signifying family reunion with the ancestors. Another ritual related to the festival is the cockfight, as well as being available within that historic and cultural context at Kaifeng Millennium City Park (Qingming Riverside Landscape Garden).

Hanshi, the day before Qingming, was created by Chong'er, the Duke Wen of the state of Jin during the Spring and Autumn period. The festival was established after Chong'er accidentally burned to death his friend and servant Jie Zhitui (介之推) (or Jie Zitui) and Jie Zitui's mother. Chong'er ordered the hills in which they were hiding set on fire in the hope that Jie Zitui would return to his service, but the fire killed Jie and his mother. Because of this, people were not allowed to use fires to heat up food and the date became named Hanshi. Eventually, 3000 years ago, the Hanshi "celebration" was combined with the Qingming festival and later abandoned by most people.

Climate Feature:

Qingming is one of the 24 Solar Terms in traditional Chinese culture, which refers to the warming of weather and blooming of plants. During the Qingming time, the climate in the South of China is getting warm and Spring is coming. However there is also some cold weather before and after the Qingming time. The average daily temperature may be below 12℃ which will result to the death of early season rice. In the northwest highlands of China, livestock will suffer the lack of food due to the consumption of the whole winter. It’s essential to protect old and young livestock from the harm of early Spring due to lack of food. “It’s always raining during the Qing Ming time” is written by a famous poet Du Mu of Tang Dynasty. However the situation is not the same as described in the poem. The southern of China and the western part of China often suffer from dry weather for long time. The total raining volume in early April is only about 10 to 20 mm, which is far from half of the raining volume in that of regions south of the Yangtze River. Though the southeast part of China has rather more raining volume. The early April raining volume is about 20 to 40 mm. Except from the northeast and northwest part of China,the temperature in most places of China has raised to more than 12℃. Most places of China show a busy Spring scene. The wheat is about booting, and rape has been full bloom. Agricultural plants such as corn, broomcorn and cotton is about planted. During this season, the fertilization and water management should be implemented well to assure the nutrition of plants. The tea tree is also sprouting at this time, measures should be taken to protect from diseases and pets.

Highway Free Of Charge During The Qingming Festival:

Since the implementation of the small passenger car toll exemption during major holidays on April 1, 2013, the Qing Ming Festival will be the third holiday after the National Holidays and Spring Festival during which highway toll is free in China. From 0 o’clock in April 4 to 24 0’clock in April 6th, highways will be free for small passenger cars.

In Chinese Tea Culture:

The Qingming festival holiday has a significance in the Chinese tea culture since this specific day divides the fresh green teas by their picking dates. Green teas made from leaves picked before this date are given the prestigious 'pre-qingming' (清明前) designation which commands a much higher price tag. These teas are prized for having much lighter and subtler aromas than those picked after the festival.

In Painting:

The famous Qingming scroll by Zhang Zeduan is an ancient Chinese painting which portrays the scene of Kaifeng city, the capital of the Song Dynasty during a Qingming festival.
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