All About Qingming Festival!

Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day or Pure Brightness Festival, is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. This annual event is celebrated on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, which usually falls on April 4th or 5th. During this time, people in China pay their respects to their ancestors and deceased loved ones.

Qingming Festival

What is Qingming Festival?

The history of the Qingming Festival can be traced back to ancient China when people used to hold spring ceremonies to worship the gods of nature and pray for a bountiful harvest. However, it wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) that it became a widespread tradition throughout China.

The festival was originally known as Hanshi Festival, which means “Cold Food Festival”. During the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong banned the use of fire to cook food for three days before the Qingming Festival as a way to mourn his loyal advisor, Jie Zitui, who died during a period of civil unrest. Jie was known for his loyalty and selflessness, and he sacrificed his own flesh to save the emperor from starvation during their time of exile. After Jie’s death, the emperor regretted his past actions and ordered that the Hanshi Festival be renamed to the Qingming Festival to honor Jie’s loyalty and sacrifice.

Over time, the festival evolved to become a day to honor ancestors and the deceased. The practice of tomb sweeping began during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), when people would visit the graves of their ancestors to clean and pay their respects. The tradition became more widespread during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), and it has continued to this day.

Today, the Qingming Festival is a public holiday in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. It is a time for people to come together to honor their ancestors and remember the deceased. The festival is an important part of China’s cultural heritage, and it remains a cherished tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation.

How is Qingming celebrated?

During Qingming Festival, families visit the graves of their ancestors to clean and tidy them up. They offer food, flowers, and incense to their ancestors as a sign of respect and gratitude. People also burn incense and paper offerings, such as paper money and clothing, which they believe will reach their ancestors in the afterlife. It is also common for people to fly kites and have picnics during the festival.

Another important tradition of Qingming Festival is the eating of Qingming cakes, which are made from glutinous rice flour, sugar, and Chinese mugwort. The cakes are typically eaten during the festival and are said to bring good luck and longevity. When I lived in China, my colleagues, neighbors, and even strangers on the street took great delight in sharing freshly made Qingming cakes with me!

In recent years, the Chinese government has encouraged people to use the Qingming Festival as an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made by revolutionary martyrs and other national heroes. This has led to the creation of new traditions, such as visiting revolutionary martyrs’ memorials and laying wreaths in their honor.

Why is Qingming celebrated?

The Qingming Festival is celebrated to pay respect to ancestors and to remember the dead. Chinese people believe that the dead are still a part of their lives and should be honored and remembered. By honoring their ancestors, they believe they are ensuring their continued blessings and protection. The festival is also a time for family reunions, reflection, and appreciation of the sacrifices made by national heroes.

An ancient house in Binjiang where the Quingming festival inspired art was created

“Along the River During the Qingming Festival” – A Timeless Masterpiece of Chinese Art

The Qingming festival also inspired a piece of art that is often referred to as “the Chinese Mona Lisa”. The “Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” also known as the “Qingming Shanghe Tu,” is a masterpiece of Chinese art that has been treasured for centuries. Painted during the Song dynasty by artist Zhang Zeduan, this scroll painting depicts a bustling scene of life along the Bian River during the Qingming Festival.

The painting spans over five meters in length and captures a panoramic view of daily life during the festival. It features hundreds of people engaged in various activities, such as buying and selling goods at the market, watching street performances, visiting temples, and rowing boats on the river. The level of detail in the painting is astounding, with each individual figure carefully depicted and every building and structure meticulously rendered.

The painting’s significance lies not only in its artistic merit but also in its historical and cultural value. It provides a glimpse into the daily life of people during the Song dynasty, including their clothing, transportation, and architecture. It also reflects the social and economic development of the time, with the market and trade activities depicted in the painting showcasing the flourishing economy of the Song dynasty.

Over the centuries, “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” has been regarded as one of the most important pieces of Chinese art. It has been praised for its technical excellence, artistic beauty, and historical value, and has inspired countless artists and writers. Many contemporary Chinese artists still draw inspiration from the painting and its depiction of daily life in ancient China.

Today, the painting is preserved at the Palace Museum in Beijing and is considered one of China’s national treasures. It continues to be a testament to the rich cultural heritage of China and a masterpiece of art that transcends time and space.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Qingming Festival is a time-honored tradition that reflects the Chinese people’s deep respect for their ancestors and their cultural heritage. It is a time to pay tribute to those who came before us, to connect with our past, and to appreciate the present. Through its rich traditions and customs, the Qingming Festival provides a window into China’s enduring reverence for family, ancestors, and history.

Tom Bogues

Tom is the Director of ESL Job Center. He has been working in the TEFL industry in one form or another since 2016 and is now using that experience to match quality teachers with quality schools across China.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *