Burning paper gifts for the departed
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Ching Ming, is a traditional Chinese festival on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either 4 or 5 April in a given year. Other common translations include Chinese Memorial Day and Ancestors' Day.
The festival is called Qīngmíng Jié in Standard (Mandarin) Chinese (清明節 / 清明节; Wade-Giles: Ch‘ing Ming Chieh), literally "Pure Brightness Festival" or "Clear and Bright Festival". The name suggests a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime (踏青, tà qīng, "treading on the greenery"), but it is mostly noted for it connection with Chinese ancestral veneration and the tending of family graves. The Chinese characters are read Cing1-ming4 Zit3 in Cantonese, and Chheng-bêng-cheh or Chhiⁿ-miâ-choeh in Min.
Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in China. In Taiwan, the public holiday is now always observed on 5 April to honor the death of Chiang Kai-shek on that day in 1975. It became a public holiday in mainland China in 2008.
In the mainland, the holiday is associated with the consumption of qingtuan, green dumplings made of glutinous rice and barley grass. In Taiwan, the similar confection is known as caozaiguo or shuchuguo.
Qingming Festival (Tomb-sweeping Day)
Spring Outing during Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival of 2015 falls on April 5. The holiday in China starts from April 4 to 6, 2015. More detailed 2015 / 2016 / 2017 China Public Holiday Calendar is available for you to know the schedule of all holidays in China and better make your travel plan.
Qingming Festival (also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-sweeping Day), which falls on either April 4th or 5th of the gregorian calendar, is one of the Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms. From that date temperatures begin to rise and rainfall increases, indicating that it is the crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring. The festival therefore has a close relationship with agriculture. However, it is not only a seasonal symbol; it is also a day of paying respect to the dead, a spring outing, and other activities.
It is said that the Qingming Festival was originally held to commemorate a loyal man living in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), named Jie Zitui. Jie cut a piece of meat from his own leg in order to save his hungry lord who was forced to go into exile when the crown was in jeopardy. The lord came back to his position nineteen years later, and forgot Jie Zitui but later felt ashamed and decided to reward him. However, Jie had blocked himself up in a mountain with his mother. In order to find Jie, the lord ordered that the mountain should be set on fire. Later Jie was found dead with his mother. In order to commemorate Jie, the lord ordered that the day Jie died was Hanshi (Cold Food) Festival - the day that only cold food could be eaten.
The second year, when the lord went to the mountain to sacrifice to Jie, he found willows revived, so he gave instructions that the day after Hanshi Festival was to be Qingming Festival. Later, the two festivals were combined as one.
Qingming Festival is a time of many different activities, among which the main ones are tomb sweeping, taking a spring outing, and flying kites. Some other lost customs like wearing willow branches on the head and riding on swings have added infinite joy in past days. It is a combination of sadness and happiness.
Tomb sweeping is regarded as the most important custom in the Qingming Festival from which the name of Tomb-sweeping day is got. Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead person with offerings are the two important parts of remembering the past relatives. Weeds around the tomb are cleared away and fresh soil is added to show care of the dead. The dead person's favourite food and wine are taken to sacrifice to them, along with paper resembling money. This is all burned in the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. Kowtow before the tablets set up for the dead are made.
Today, with cremation taking over from burying, the custom has been extremely simplified in cities. Only flowers are presented to the dead relatives and revolutionary martyrs. No matter how respect is shown, good prayers for the deceased are expressed.
Not only is it a day for commemorating the dead, is it also a time for people to enjoy themselves. During March, everything in nature takes on a new look, as trees turn green, flowers blossom, and the sun shines brightly. It is a fine time to go out and to appreciate the beautiful scenes of nature. This custom can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) and followed by each dynasty later till today. So visitors can be seen everywhere during the month of the festival.
Spring outings not only add joy to life but also promote a healthy body and mind.
Flying kites is an activity favored by many people during the Qingming Festival. Kites are not only flown during the day time but also in the evening. Little lanterns are tied to the kite or to the string that holds the kite. And when the kite is flying in the sky, the lanterns look like twinkling stars that add unique scenery to the sky during the night. What makes flying kites during this day special is that people cut the string while the kite is in the sky to let it fly free. It is said this brings good luck and that diseases can be eliminated by doing this.
All in all, the Qingming Festival is an occasion of unique characteristics, integrating sorrowful tears to the dead with the continuous laughter from the spring outing.
Paper Apple Watch, iPhone 7 offerings sold ahead of Qingming Festival
Tomb Sweeping Day lands on April 5, and opportunists across the country are gleefully carrying on the tradition of cashing-in on the occasion for all it's worth. Yes, vendors on Taobao are once again offering "professional mourners" who will pay respects to customers' deceased ancestors on their behalf. Paper-makers, meanwhile, are jumping on the Apple bandwagon with replica paper offerings of Apple Watches and iPhone 7 (yes, iPhone 7) handsets.
One vendor in Hengyang, Hunan province said told Xinhua that a three-minute "weeping session" will set a customer back around 100 yuan. For a collective wail from the "group weeping" service, requiring at least 10 mourners, customers can get a deal by paying 90 yuan per person for a three-minute session.
The professionals can also be paid to offer sacrifices for anywhere from 100 yuan to hundreds of yuan, according to Want China Times. Vendors even offer pictures documenting the process so customers can be assured that the mourning was properly carried out.
Tomb Sweeping Day, or Qingming Festival, is celebrated annually by Chinese people who commemorate their ancestors by burning incense and offerings for them to use in the afterlife.
As technology continues to evolve, so apparently does the necessities for those who've long passed. Last year, people were reported to have given iPhones, internet routers and subway passes as offerings to the deceased.
This year, the dead are getting their ghostly hands on gadgets that haven't even been released to the living, including replicas of the Apple Watch and iPhone 7 (plus cables and headphones) for less than 40 RMB.
Qingming Festival is an important day to show respects to ancestors
Qingming Festival, also called Tomb Sweeping Day or Pure Brightness in English, usually falls on April 4 or 5. Qingming (清明) is the second of 24 solar terms on the traditional Chinese solar calendar. It is also a time for people to go outside and start enjoying the greenery of spring.
In 2015 Qingming Festival falls on April 5. The three-day public holiday in China is April 4–6, 2015, including Monday April 6th.
Qingming Festival Facts
Chinese: 清明节 Qīngmíng jié / ching-ming jyeah/ 'Pure Bright Festival'
Date: April 4 or 5 (start of Qingming, solar term two)
Importance: top day for showing respect to / worshipping ancestors
Celebrations: tomb sweeping, food/drink offerings, fire crackers
History:over 2,500 years
The Most Important Day of Sacrifice
Some people show their respects to their ancestors by laying wreaths in the front of the graves
Qingming Festival is a traditional Chinese festival and an important day of sacrifice for most people (including the Han Chinese and China's 55 other ethnic minorities) to go and sweep tombs and commemorate their ancestors. On this day, tomb sweeping is one of the most important and popular activities to show respect to ancestors.
On May 20, 2006, the festival was listed as one of the first national intangible cultural heritage events. Learn more about the death culture in China!
How Do Chinese Celebrate the Qingming Festival?
In Qingming Festival, people usually worship their ancestors by burning incense and 'paper money' in their ancestors' grave sites
There are various activities for Qingming Festival. The most popular ones, including tomb sweeping, spring outings, and kite flying, and putting willow branches on gates, have been an important part of this festival since the beginning.
People often participate in a sport to ward off the cold and in anticipation of the arrival of spring. The festival integrates both reverence and fun through its customs.
Tomb Sweeping — the Most Important Custom of Qingming Festival
People commemorate and show respect to their ancestors by visiting their graves, and offering food, tea, wine, incense, joss paper (representing money), etc. They sweep the tombs, removing weeds, and adding fresh soil to the graves, stick willow branches on the tomb, and burn incense and 'paper money'.
They pray before their ancestors' graves and beseech them to bless their families. However, the custom has been greatly simplified today, especially in cities, where only flowers are presented to the dead relatives.
Putting Willow Branches on Gates
During Qingming Festival, people wear soft willow branches and place the branches on gates and front doors. People believe that this custom will ward off wandering evil spirits during Qingming.
That willows are considered magical is mainly a Buddhist influence. Traditional pictures of the Goddess of Mercy Guanyin often show her seated on a rock with a willow branch in a vase of water at her side. The goddess used this mysterious water and branch to scare away demons.
According to historical records there is an old saying, "Put willow branches up on gates; drive ghosts away from houses."
Qingming Festival is a good time to feel the breath of spring
Qingming is also called Taqing Festival. Taqing (踏青 /taa-ching/ 'tread green') means a spring outing, when people get out and enjoy the spring blossoms. The festival usually falls on a day not long before everything turns green in the north, and well into the spring flower season in the south. It marks the beginning of the season when people spend more time outside as the weather warms up.
Flying kites is also an important custom enjoyed by many people, young and old, during the Qingming Festival. The uniqueness of kite flying during the Qingming Festival lies in that kites are not only flown during the day but also in the evening.
Little colored lanterns are tied to the kites or to the strings that hold the kites. When kites fly in the evening, the lanterns look like twinkling stars.
In the past, people cut the string to let the kite fly freely. People believe that this custom can bring good luck and eliminate diseases.
Kite flying is popular throughout all of China and you will see people doing it on big squares or in parks throughout the entire country. Learn more about Chinese kites.
Foods for Qingming Festival
Sweet Green Rice Balls is one of the most traditional Qingming foods
The day before Tomb Sweeping Day was the traditional Chinese Cold Food Day. As time passed, the two festivals were gradually combined into one. On the cold food festival day, people used no fire and only ate cold food. Now people in some places still have the custom of eating cold food on Qingming Festival.
Different places have different foods for Qingming Festival. The traditional Qingming festival foods include sweet green rice balls, peach blossom porridge, crispy cakes, Qingming snails, and eggs. These foods are usually cooked one or two days before the arrival of the Qingming Festival.
Sweet Green Rice Balls
Sweet Green Rice Balls (青团 qīngtuán /ching-twann/ 'green dumpling(s)') are a popular Qingming food, which are made of a mixture of glutinous rice powder and green vegetable juice, and stuffed with sweetened bean paste. Sweet green rice balls are jade-green in color, glutinous in taste, and sweet in aroma.
Qingming cakes are called sazi(撒子sāzi /saa-dzuh/ [phonetic]) or hanju(寒具 hánjù /han-jyoo/ 'cold tools'). They are a crispy fried food, made of wheat flour or glutinous rice flour, eggs, sesame, onion, salt, and other ingredients.
Among some Chinese ethnic minorities, such as the Uygur in Xinjiang, the Dongxiang in Gansu, the Naxi in Yunnan, and the Hui in Ningxia, sazi is very famous for its great varieties and various flavors.
Other Qingming Foods
Peach blossom porridge is a kind of porridge cooked with fresh peach blossom and rice.
Qingming snails is a dish cooked with snails, onions, ginger, soy sauce, cooking wine, and sugar.
When Did the Qingming Festival Begin?
The Qingming Festival started from the Zhou Dynasty, and has a history of over 2,500 years.
It originated from the extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies that many ancient emperors and wealthy officials held in honor of their ancestors. They offered sacrifices to their ancestors and beseeched them to bless the country with prosperity, peace, and good harvests.
In the year 732, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, declared that respect could only be paid formally at ancestors' graves on the first day of the Qingming solar term. From then on, sweeping tombs on the first of Qingming gradually became popular with both royal and common families, and has lasted over a millennia. Learn more about the legend of Qingming Festival.
Visiting China at the Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival is a national holiday in China. Many Chinese people will make use of the 3-day holiday to go traveling. Therefore, during the Qingming Festival, most attractions will be crowded, cheap public transport (like buses and train) will be sold out, and accommodation may be slightly more expensive.
Language Tips for Qingming Festival
清明节 (qīng-míng jié /ching-ming jyeh/) Qingming Festival
扫墓 (sǎo mǜ /saoww moo/) sweep tombs
祭祖 (jì zǔ /jee dsoo/) worship (sacrifice to) ancestors
纸钱 (zhǐ qián /jrr chyen/) joss paper: paper made to resemble money and burned as an offering to the dead
烧香 (shāo xiāng /shaoww sshyang/) burn joss sticks (incense)