Qingming Festival

Qingming Festival

Overview
The Qingming Festival Pure Brightness Festival or Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival
Traditional Chinese holidays
The traditional Chinese holidays are an essential part of Chinese culture. Many holidays are associated with Chinese mythology and folklore tales, but more realistically, they probably originated from ancient farmer rituals for celebrating harvests or prayer offerings...

 on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox
Equinox
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator...

), usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

 (see Chinese calendar
Chinese calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...

). Astronomically it is also a solar term
Solar term
A solar term is any of 24 points in traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars that matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon. The points are spaced 15° apart along the ecliptic and are used by lunisolar calendars to stay synchronized with the seasons. Solar terms...

 (See Qingming
Qingming
Traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars divide a year into 24 solar terms . Qīngmíng or Chīngmíng or Seimei is the 5th solar term. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 15° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 30°...

). The Qingming festival falls on the first day of the fifth solar term, named Qingming.
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Encyclopedia
The Qingming Festival Pure Brightness Festival or Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival
Traditional Chinese holidays
The traditional Chinese holidays are an essential part of Chinese culture. Many holidays are associated with Chinese mythology and folklore tales, but more realistically, they probably originated from ancient farmer rituals for celebrating harvests or prayer offerings...

 on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox
Equinox
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator...

), usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

 (see Chinese calendar
Chinese calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...

). Astronomically it is also a solar term
Solar term
A solar term is any of 24 points in traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars that matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon. The points are spaced 15° apart along the ecliptic and are used by lunisolar calendars to stay synchronized with the seasons. Solar terms...

 (See Qingming
Qingming
Traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars divide a year into 24 solar terms . Qīngmíng or Chīngmíng or Seimei is the 5th solar term. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 15° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 30°...

). 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.

Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday
Public holiday
A public holiday, national holiday or legal holiday is a holiday generally established by law and is usually a non-working day during the year....

 in Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 and in the Chinese jurisdictions of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Macau
Macau
Macau , also spelled Macao , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China...

. Its observance was reinstated as a nation wide public holiday in mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

 in 2008, after having been previously suppressed by the ruling Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 in 1949.

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 Ching Ming Chieh.

Introduction


The holiday is known by a number of names in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

:
  • All Souls Day (not to be confused with the Roman Catholic holiday, All Souls Day
    All Souls Day
    All Souls' Day commemorates the faithful departed. In Western Christianity, this day is observed principally in the Catholic Church, although some churches of Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches also celebrate it. The Eastern Orthodox Church observes several All Souls' Days during the...

    , 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
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

.

Origin


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
Cold Food Festival
The Cold Food Festival or Hanshi Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated for three consecutive days starting the day before the Qingming Festival in the Chinese Calendar, which falls on the 105th day after dongzhi...

 , a memorial day for Jie Zitui . Jie Zitui died in 636 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was one of many followers of Duke Wen of Jin
Duke Wen of Jin
Duke Jin Wen led the state of Jin in the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history from 636 BC to 628 BC. His ancestral name is Ji,clan name is Jin Duke Jin Wen (晋文公) (697 BC - 628 BC) led the state of Jin in the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history from 636 BC to 628 BC. His ancestral...

 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 county where Jie died is still called Jiexiu
Jiexiu
-References:*...

 (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
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 Emperor Xuanzong
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang , also commonly known as Emperor Ming of Tang , personal name Li Longji , known as Wu Longji from 690 to 705, was the seventh emperor of the Tang dynasty in China, reigning from 712 to 756. His reign of 43 years was the longest during the Tang Dynasty...

 in 732. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honour 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

Celebration


The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites
Grave (burial)
A grave is a location where a dead body is buried. Graves are usually located in special areas set aside for the purpose of burial, such as graveyards or cemeteries....

. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper
Joss paper
Joss paper , also known as ghost money, are sheets of paper and/or paper-crafts made into burnt offerings which are common in traditional Chinese religious practices including the veneration of the deceased on holidays and special occasions...

 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
Chinese opera
Chinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE...

. Another common practice is to carry flowers instead of burning paper, incense or firecrackers.

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
Tiananmen Incident
The Tiananmen Incident took place on April 5, 1976 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The incident occurred on the traditional day of mourning, the Qingming Festival, after the Nanjing Incident, and was triggered by the death of Premier Zhou Enlai earlier that year...

 were major events on Qingming that took place in the history of the People's Republic of China
History of the People's Republic of China
The history of the People's Republic of China details the history of mainland China since October 1, 1949, when, after a near complete victory by the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China from atop Tiananmen...

. When Premier Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

 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
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also known as the June Fourth Incident in Chinese , were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the People's Republic of China beginning on 15 April 1989...

 and the graves of Zhao Ziyang
Zhao Ziyang
Zhao Ziyang was a high-ranking politician in the People's Republic of China . He was the third Premier of the People's Republic of China from 1980 to 1987, and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989....

 and Yang Jia
Yang Jia
Yang Jia Yang Jia Yang Jia (Chinese: 陽甲, born Zi He (Chinese: 子和), was a Shang Dynasty King of China.In the Records of the Grand Historian he was listed by Sima Qian as the eighteenth Shang king, succeeding his father's cousin Nen Geng (Chinese: 南庚). He was enthroned in the year of Renxu (Chinese:...

 in areas where the right of free expression is generally recognized, as in Hong Kong. In most areas of China observance of sensitive events are suppressed and all public mention of such events is taboo. In Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 this national holiday is observed on April 5 because the ruling Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 moved it to that date in commemoration of the death of Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 on April 5.

Despite having no holiday status, the overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the Greater China Area . People of partial Chinese ancestry living outside the Greater China Area may also consider themselves Overseas Chinese....

 communities in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n nations, such as those in Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 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
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 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
Filial piety
In Confucian ideals, filial piety is one of the virtues to be held above all else: a respect for the parents and ancestors. The Confucian classic Xiao Jing or Classic of Xiào, thought to be written around 470 BCE, has historically been the authoritative source on the Confucian tenet of xiào /...

 to the extent of visiting the graves of their ancestors in mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

. 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 Kowtow
Kowtow
Kowtow is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to have one's head touching the ground. An alternative Chinese term is ketou, however the meaning is somewhat altered: kòu originally meant "knock with reverence", whereas kē has the general meaning of "touch upon ".In Han...

ing 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.

Hanshi
Cold Food Festival
The Cold Food Festival or Hanshi Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated for three consecutive days starting the day before the Qingming Festival in the Chinese Calendar, which falls on the 105th day after dongzhi...

, the day before Qingming, was created by Chong'er, the Duke Wen
Duke Wen of Jin
Duke Jin Wen led the state of Jin in the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history from 636 BC to 628 BC. His ancestral name is Ji,clan name is Jin Duke Jin Wen (晋文公) (697 BC - 628 BC) led the state of Jin in the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history from 636 BC to 628 BC. His ancestral...

 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, 300 years ago, the Hanshi "celebration" was combined with the Qingming festival and later abandoned by most people.

In Chinese tea culture



The Qingming festival holiday has a significance in the Chinese tea culture since this specific day divides the fresh green tea
Green tea
Green tea is made solely from the leaves of Camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea originates from China and has become associated with many cultures throughout Asia. It has recently become more widespread in the West, where black tea is traditionally...

s by their picking dates. Green teas made from leaves picked before this date are given the prestigious 'pre-qingming' 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
Zhang Zeduan
Zhang Zeduan , alias Zheng Dao, also sometimes translated as Zhang Zerui, was a famous Chinese painter during the twelfth century, during the transitional period from the Northern Song to the Southern Song Dynasty, and was instrumental in the early history of the Chinese art style known as shan...

 is an ancient Chinese painting which portrays the scene of Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

 city, the capital of the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 during a Qingming festival.

In literature


Qingming was frequently mentioned in Chinese literature
Chinese literature
Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature fictional novels that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese...

. Among these, the most famous one is probably Du Mu
Du Mu
Du Mu was a leading Chinese poet of the late Tang Dynasty. His courtesy name was Muzhi , and sobriquet Fanchuan .He was born in Chang'an into an elite family whose fortunes were declining...

's poem (simply titled "Qingming"):
Traditional Chinese  Simplified Chinese  pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

 
English translation
qīng míng shí jié yǔ fēn fēn A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day;
lù shàng xíng rén yù duàn hún The mourner's heart is breaking on his way.
jiè wèn jiǔ jiā hé chù yǒu Where can a winehouse be found to drown his sadness?
mù tóng yáo zhǐ xìng huā cūn A cowherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance.


(The word can have multiple meanings: winehouse or restaurant, also hostel, hotel or motel. The most common and most appropriate translation for '酒家' should be 'inn.'"

In the Vietnamese
Vietnamese literature
Vietnamese literature is literature, both oral and written, created largely by Vietnamese-speaking people, although Francophone Vietnamese and English-speaking Vietnamese authors in Australia and the United States are counted by many critics as part of the national tradition...

 epic poem The Tale of Kieu
The Tale of Kieu
The Tale of Kiều is an epic poem in Vietnamese written by Nguyễn Du , and is widely regarded as the most significant work of Vietnamese literature. It is even used as a source for bibliomancy. The original title in Vietnamese is Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh , but it is better known as Truyện Kiều...

, Qingming is mentioned as the occasion when the protagonist Kieu meets a ghost of a dead old lady. The lines describing the sceneries during this festival remain some of the most well-known lines in Vietnamese literature:
Vietnamese English translation

Ngày xuân con én đưa thoi
Thiều quang chín chục đã ngoài sáu mươi
Cỏ non xanh tận chân trời
Cành lê trắng điểm một vài bông hoa
Thanh Minh trong tiết tháng ba
Lễ là Tảo mộ, hội là Đạp thanh
Gần xa nô nức yến oanh
Chị em sắm sửa bộ hành chơi xuân


Swift swallows and spring days were shuttling by;
Of ninety radiant ones three score had fled.
Young grass spread all its green to heaven's rim;
Some blossoms marked pear branches with white dots.
Now came the Feast of Light in the third month
With graveyard rites and junkets on the green.
As merry pilgrims flocked from near and far,
The sisters and their brother went for a stroll.

See also

  • Traditional Chinese holidays
    Traditional Chinese holidays
    The traditional Chinese holidays are an essential part of Chinese culture. Many holidays are associated with Chinese mythology and folklore tales, but more realistically, they probably originated from ancient farmer rituals for celebrating harvests or prayer offerings...

  • Cold Food Festival
    Cold Food Festival
    The Cold Food Festival or Hanshi Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated for three consecutive days starting the day before the Qingming Festival in the Chinese Calendar, which falls on the 105th day after dongzhi...

    , three consecutive days starting the day before the Qingming Festival
  • Double Ninth Festival
    Double Ninth Festival
    The Double Ninth Festival , observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar, is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the East Han period ....

    , the other day to visit and clean up the cemeteries
    Cemetery
    A cemetery is a place in which dead bodies and cremated remains are buried. The term "cemetery" implies that the land is specifically designated as a burying ground. Cemeteries in the Western world are where the final ceremonies of death are observed...

     in Hong Kong
  • Ghost Festival
    Ghost Festival
    The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries...

  • Day of the Dead
    Day of the Dead
    Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in many cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality...

  • Hansik, a related Korean holiday on the same day
  • Along the River During Ching Ming Festival
    Along the River During Ching Ming Festival
    Along the River During the Qingming Festival is a panoramic painting by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan . It captures the daily life of people from the Song period at the capital, Bianjing, today's Kaifeng...

    by Zhang Zeduan
    Zhang Zeduan
    Zhang Zeduan , alias Zheng Dao, also sometimes translated as Zhang Zerui, was a famous Chinese painter during the twelfth century, during the transitional period from the Northern Song to the Southern Song Dynasty, and was instrumental in the early history of the Chinese art style known as shan...

  • Songkran, South and Southeast Asia equivalents

External links