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A Good Time of the Year - Qingming (Tomb-Sweeping Day)

 2014-04-04    Sum    Activities    Chongqing    2784  

Tomb-sweeping day is a traditional holiday in China. It is the day for people to honor and reminisce their ancestors and deceased love ones. It is one of the most important and celebrated holidays for Chinese people who highly value the virtue of respecting ancestors. Nowadays people get three day-offs during the holiday. For those who work or study away from home, they will usually travel back home and go tomb-sweeping with their family members. The holiday often bring up sense of sadness and homesickness.

Spring hiking

Tomb-sweeping day is also called Qingming festival. Qingming is one of the 24 solar terms in Eastern Asian culture. A solar term matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon. The natural phenomenon that Qingming marks is the arrival of the good season for farming. During Qingming, spring becomes prominent; fog and haze are dispersed; rain sizzles; and crop grows. Ancient Chinese believe that crops and plants grow around this period of time are cleansed and clear which are also what Qingming literately means.

Tomb sweeping nowadays

But why this solar term will be related to tomb-sweeping? That is because of another holiday Hanshi. I will not bother to introduce the origin of Hanshi to you here. The only things you need to know are that Hanshi is fairly close to the day of Qingming and one of the traditional activities during Hanshi is visiting the tomb of ancestors. Because Hanshi and Qingming are close, ancient people often celebrate them together. In ancient time, people often get 6 to 7 consecutive day-offs to celebrate Hanshi and Qingming. As time goes by, Qingming took over the name of the holiday and also its traditional practices.

During Tomb-sweeping day, of course a very important activity is to go tomb-sweeping. In the old day, instead of the cemetery, most of the tombs sit on remote high hills. Probably they will only be visited once a year. Thus it is necessary for the relatives of the past-away to sweep the tomb, do the weeding, check and fix damages caused by wind and rain. People will also bring refreshments, alcohol, chicken, roast piglet, incenses, firecrackers, flowers and some other food to the tomb. After they arrive at the tomb site (normally it takes a while for people to find the tomb on the hill), first they will clean up the tomb. Then they will place all the food and drink in front of it as offerings. It is similar to a feast. But instead of a dining table, it is the tomb. After that people will light the incenses and pay tribute to the pass-aways by bowing and praying in front of the tomb. People take turns to do that in the order of seniority in the family. And then it comes the firecracker. When all of these are done, it is time for the family members to enjoy the offerings.

Tomb-sweeping of ancient people

Other than Tomb-sweeping, there are more traditional activities like spring hiking, tree planting, kite flying, rooster fighting, etc. They are all outdoor activities. This is because that Qingming is a good period of time to step outside and enjoy the nature. 

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