Introduction to Qingming Festival

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, anticipates spring when many parts of China are frigid and gray. To truly mark spring’s brisk arrival, there is another traditional Chinese holiday celebrated each year in early April, Qingming Festival.

Many things may remind us of spring: bird’s singing, crisp blue skies, a gentle breeze, sprouting vegetables which will soon find a place on our dinner table—but each new beginning also marks the end of something else.

“A drizzling rain falls like tears on Qingming”

You notice this melancholy in the famous poem ‘Qingming’ by the ancient poet Dufu. It opens with steady, light rain and a lonesome mourner. It is the day of the festival and he hopes the next town may provide some respite and new life.

Qingming Festival carries both the lightness of spring and weight of sadness because it is a day for commemorating the dead. The most common practice is to visit and tidy up the tomb of one’s ancestors—for this reason, Qingming is also frequently referred to as Tomb-sweeping Day.

Like all traditional holidays, it is rich with folk meaning, interesting customs, entertainment, and unique foods. For those interested in Chinese culture, there is much to discover!

Origin Story

During the early time of Chinese history known as the Spring and Autumn Period, there was a prince who was down and out due to warfare. A man called Jie Zizhui was always loyal and devoted to the prince.

The prince fell ill when they had nothing to eat but some edible wild herbs, so it is said Jie cut off a piece of meat from his thigh and boiled it into soup for the prince. 

The prince’s health recovered and years after he even became king. He offered Jie generous awards for his loyalty. However, Jie refused and took his mother to live in a mountain as a hermit. But the king could not accept losing his devoted aide and went to the mountain. The king wanted Jie and his mother to come out so badly he set fire to the mountain. Unfortunately, both mother and son died in the fire. 

In order to commemorate Jie, the king ordered that on the day of Jie’s death fire was forbidden and people were not allowed to eat hot food. The day was called “Han Shi.” Because it was close to Qingming, the two gradually combined to be “Qingming Festival.”

Traditions

Every year during the Qingming Festival, the city’s major funeral places will be full of people worshipping their ancestors. In addition to sweeping tombs, there are other traditions on Qingming, such as a spring outting, flying kites and planting willow trees. 

Recently, COVID-19 has forced people to turn to online services because they cannot personally carry out tomb-sweeping.

In new online services for Qingming Festival, you can choose flowers and the staff will do the tomb sweeping.

Qingming Festival has 3 days off, and it is in early April. To take advantage of this free time, most people will relax and go picnic with friends. The flowers are all in bloom. Check what I found in the park nearby~

What’s more, as one living in Suzhou city while studying from home, apart from sweeping tombs, my city has some special traditions. 

1. Eating qingtuan

Qingtuan is a green and sticky stuffed snack. The color comes from wheatgrass juice mixed with glutinous rice flour. The dough is then filled with bean paste or lotus paste. I think it is pretty much like sweet dumplings. 

Mine is stuffed with minced pork and egg yolk~

2. Eating luosi

Luosi are spiral shelled snails that are delicious when cooked with fragrant spices and savory flavors. 

Qingming Festival is typically peak tourist season, but because of the epidemic situation, most people prefer to stay where they are. Most universities are still running online classes as well. Therefore, whether you are in China or abroad, better to stay home and away from crowds. Take care!! Wish you all the best!

Written by Rosy Wu


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