Qingming Festival (Qīngmíng jié - 清明节 literally meaning ‘Pure Brightness’ Festival) is one of the 24 solar terms of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, and usually falls on the 4th or 5th April, the latter this year. It is also known as Tomb-sweeping day, an important day of sacrifice and to remember ancestors.

Traditionally on the day of the Qingming Festival, Chinese families will gather together and pay their respects to their ancestors, commemorating them by visiting their grave, sweeping and maintaining the tomb. They will often remove weeds, add fresh soil and decorate the grave with plants. Families will also offer food, fruit, tea and wine, burn incense and joss paper before the tomb. Then they will pray to their ancestors to bless their families and descendants with luck, good health and safety.

Tomb-sweeping and sacrifice manifested from the traditional culture of Chinese ancestor worship and veneration, the ceremony dates back over centuries, 2,500 years to the Zhou Dynasty. Originally exclusively intended for imperial emperors and wealthy court officials to bless the entire land for prosperity, peace and good harvest, the festival has spread far and wide and has become a national cultural event amongst Chinese.

In addition to tomb-sweeping, family and friends will go on an outing to see the flowers blossom and nature turn green, to really feel Spring come to life with bright colours after the cold winter, hence why it is called Qingming Festival. You really get the sense that the season is getting warmer and you will start to see more and more people spend time outdoors. Families will also go to the park and fly kites and lanterns, believing it to bring luck and keep away diseases. It has become a custom to eat sweet green rice balls called qingtuan.

Qīngmíng jié - 清明节 - Qingming Festival
Sǎomù - 扫墓 - Sweeping the tomb
Jìzǔ - 祭祖 - Ancestor worship
Tàqīng - 踏青 - Spring outing
Qīngtuán - 青团 - Green rice balls

On a last note, Qingming has inspired many poets to express grief and nostalgia in poetry form. There is a very famous poem from the Tang Dynasty written by famed poet Du Mu, titled ‘Qingming’, this is the most famous one that has stood the test of time. Here it is:


qīngmíng shíjié yǔ fēnfēn,
lùshàng xíngrén yù duànhún
jièwèn jiǔjiā héchù yǒu
mùtòng yáozhǐ xìnghuā cūn.

Raindrops fall like tears on Qingming,
The mourner's heart is going to break on his way.
Where can a wine shop be found to drown his sorrows?
A cowherd points to Xing Hua Village.

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