Tomorrow, April 5th 2014, Chinese everywhere celebrate Qingming Festival 清明節 Qīngmíng Jié, Ching-mirng Jier. On this day families go out to the cemeteries and clean the tombs of their ancestors. By honoring the dead, people also recognize the blood tie which binds their family together. It’s a day of family unity.
After cleaning the tomb, gifts of food, joss paper, and incense are placed on the tomb for the deceased. Later everyone picnics together, eating the food they had put out on the grave. Eating together is another symbolic gesture of solidarity. This day is often enjoyed by hiking and enjoying the outside.
Qīngmíng Jié, Ching-mirng Jier, coming in April, marks the beginning of spring. The weather starts to warm and farmers begin plowing to prepare their fields. Qīngmíng, not the festival but the day itself, has long provided a benchmark for planting. According to Anecdotes about the Qingming Festival a couple of popular farmer’s proverbs are:
“Grow melons and beans around the Qingming.” and
“It is best to plant trees before the Qingming.” (p101)
Even as far back as the Eastern Han Dynasty there are admonitions about preparing the silkworm rooms on Qingming.
So, this is a day to honor family bonds and celebrate a new spring!
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Reference: Anecdotes about the Qingming Festival. English by Men Shunde et al, revised by Wang Rongpei, Chinese by Huang Tao et al