The Qingming Festival

The Qingming Festival

Qingming Festival Infographic

When is Qingming Festival 2021?

Sunday, April 4, 2021.

Why is the Qingming Festival celebrated?

Pays respect to/worshipping ancestors. The day commemorates deceased loved ones in the family for a connection of both life and death.

What is the meaning of Qingming?

Qingming, in Chinese, means 'clear and bright', is one of the 24 Solar Terms, and is an important traditional festival referred to as Tomb-Sweeping Day or the Mourning Day.

The festival can be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC). The day is for commemorating ancestors and sweeping tombs, and is also the common link between the Chinese nations.

The words “Clear” and “Bright” describe the weather in this period such that it is a golden opportunity for spring cultivation and getting close to nature. The day before Qingming Festival is Cold Food Day when people are forbidden fire and only eat cold food. As time went by, the two festivals intermingled.

On the 20th May, 2006, Qingming Festival was added to the National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

The Qingming Festival dates over next few years:

Year Date Weekday
2021 April 4 Sunday
2022 April 5 Tuesday
2023 April 5 Wednesday

Click here to see China Public Holiday Calendar

[VIDEO] Find out what people do in Qingming Festival

The Legend about Qingming Festival — A Story of Duke Wen of Jin and Jie Zitui

The story of qingming festivalThe Story of Qingming Festival

In The Spring and Autumn period (770-475BC), Chong'er, prince of the Jin State, with his followers ran away from his country to avoid persecution. They had suffered hunger and cold in exile. Legend has it that a supporter named Jie Zitui cut a piece of flesh from his own thigh to save the starving Chong'er. After 19 years, when Chong'er succeeded to his father's throne, his followers all strived for credit, except for the loyal Jie Zitui. Therefore, other followers were rewarded, and Jie Zitui was totally forgotten. Then Jie retired with his mother to the Mian Mountain.

Chong'er, Duke Wen of the Jin State, felt guilty, and wanted to bring him back. But it is very difficult to find people in the steep mountains and dense forests. Someone suggested that he set a fire to smoke Jie Zitui out. Following the Duke's order, the fire was lit, and lasted three whole days and nights. As the result, Jie and his mother were burned to death beside an old willow. There was a blood-letter that said, “Cutting flesh only for lord, hoping owner always develops clear and bright policies”. After that, Duke Chong'er wailed for Jie's death and ordered all fires of every house to be put out and only cold food to be allowed on the anniversary of his death.

Traditional Sacrifices and Modern Offerings

Traditional Sacrifices and Modern Offerings

Sacrifices have varied according to different periods. In the cemetery, Chinese people burn some paper money in the belief that deceased relatives can use it in their afterlife. It is a Confucian tradition in China. Nowadays, those offerings have become more fashionable and keep up with times.

Traditional Sacrifices

Paper money, golden paper ingots, and some candles are in increased demand during the Qingming Festival. It is common to visit relatives' graves and offer flowers on it and bring some fresh fruits, homemade food, and white spirit.

Modern Offerings

Car made of paper Car made of paper

These days, paper offerings of items on Sweeping Tomb Day are faux iPhone products, luxury cars with a driver, branded bags and clothes, and enormous villas with swimming pools. In recent years, users on the internet can find a set of services of sweeping tombs for someone who cannot do it in person, to clean graves, place flowers, and pay respect. Even the ways to express devotion to the deceased has become virtual. Many mourners can do their sacrifice online. Users can create web shrines with candles on the sacrifice website, and then they can offer different kinds of virtual tributes, such as pictures of one's favorite foods and flowers.

What do Qingming Festival People Eat?

To commemorate ancestors, family members prepare the departed’s favorite food and drink as sacrifices. Relatives return home for a reunion and to eat, drink and chat with each other. People in different regions of China consume different seasonal Qingming foods on the day according to the local customs.

1. Green Rice Ball 青团 qīngtuán

Green Rice Ball

Qingtuan (青团), also called green rice ball, is one of the popular seasonal Qingming snacks in the southern region of the Yangtze River. The steamed ball is made from glutinous rice dough and pounded barley grass or mugwort, an edible wild herb useful to prevent toxic insect bites. Both of them only grow around the time of Qingming Festival. That’s the reason why Qingtuan is only eaten around at this time. Its filling is usually sweet bean paste mixed with lard.

In Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, it is also known as Ai ba, featuring peanuts and sesame seeds for a more diversified flavor.

2. Sanzi—fried dough twists 馓子 sǎn zi

Sanzi

This is a fried food that requires no reheating, and is found both in northern and southern China. It is made in the shape of noodles which are twisted together and fried in oil. Northern people prefer larger ones made from wheat, while people in the Southern area enjoy the smaller ones made from rice.

3. Thin pancakes 薄饼 báo bǐng

Thin pancakes are a popular food for people in Xiamen in southeastern China’s Fujian province on Tomb Sweeping Day. They usually add dried seaweed, omelet, veggies and chili sauce to the pancakes.

4. Spring Roll 春卷 chūn juǎn

Spring Roll

This Chinese spring roll is stuffed with vegetables such as bean sprouts, shredded carrots, tofu, and minced meat, with the thin pancakes wrapped a roll, and then the spring rolls are fried to make its exterior crispy. Eating spring rolls means having a taste of spring (yao chun 咬春 in Chinese ).

5. Freshwater Snails 螺蛳 luó sī

Freshwater snails, usually fried or braised in soy sauce, is a dish that many locals love to eat. There is an old saying that “Freshwater snails around Qingming Festival taste even better than fattened geese”. This is because the snails are fattened at that time, and in the past, when people could not afford to buy a goose for eating, instead, they found snails in the river.

6. Eggs 鸡蛋 jī dàn

Eating eggs during the festival originated from the ancient Cold Food Festival for praying to have children and childbirth. They boiled and colored all kinds of eggs, such as chicken eggs, duck eggs and other birds’ eggs. They went to the riverside and threw the eggs into the river, with people waiting downriver to fish them out, peel and eat them. They believed that eating eggs is a symbol of breeding and birth, bumping and peeling eggs indicates the renewal of life and hope, and eating eggs on Qingming Festival symbolizes fullness. People want to express their awe of life and fertility in this way.

Domestic Trips during Qingming Holiday

One of the activities during Qingming Holiday is a “Spring Outing”, which means going out to appreciate the beautiful scenes of nature. Most Chinese people then go back home for tomb sweeping and take the opportunity to have a short outdoor tour during the three-day holiday. The majority of people prefer to visit scenic spots located in their own provinces within a short drive or flight, and therefore, it may lead to traffic congestion and accommodation tension.

Before the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of people travelling and ticket sales of scenic spots rose year-on-year. According to the data released by the China Tourism Academy, a total of 43.25 million domestic trips were made from April 4 to 6, 2020, and the tourist satisfaction index hit a record high of 88.8 since the corona virus pandemic was being effectively controlled across the country.

Online ticket sales for red tourism scenic spots, local history museums, as well as cemetery parks and memorial halls of heroes and martyrs saw a year-on-year increase. For cultural tourism, programs ranged from exhibitions to operas, which, along with folk culture, are appreciated during the holiday.

Hence destinations including museums, townships of cultural heritage, and unique customs and traditions are all popular choices for tourists. Short trips and excursions, including appreciating flower blossoms, hiking in urban outskirts, and picking up fruits and vegetables at orchards and farms for recreational and commercial purposes, are top choices for those who go out as a family or group.

Chinese Phrases for Qingming Festival

清明节 - Qīngmíngjié - Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day)

扫墓 - sǎomù - sweep a grave

祭祖 - jì zǔ - to worship ancestors

祖先 - zǔ xiān - ancestor

烧香 - shāo xiāng - burning incense

纸钱 - zhǐ qián - joss paper

踏青 - tà qīng - outing

插柳 - chā liǔ - planting willow branches

放风筝 - fàng fēng zhēng fly kites

咬春 - yǎo chūn - having a taste of spring

Chinese Painting: Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河图qīng míng shàng hé tú)

Artists are keen on an art creation about the Qingming Festival. “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is a panoramic painting by Zhang Zeduan in the Northern Dynasty (960-1127AD). It is one of the China's top 10 most famous paintings and is treated as a national treasure collected in the Palace Museum of Beijing. This hand scroll painting is 25.2 cm in height and 528.7cm long. It vividly depicts the lives of people of all ranks in the capital city of Bianjing (today's Kaifeng, Henan Province) during the Qingming Festival. The bustling road, busy market, vigorous village, heavy traffic, and business trade reveal the splendor and real economic condition of the capital city at that time.

A part of painting of ALONG THE RIVER DURING THE QINGMING A part of painting
By Shirley Li
Web Editor