It’s spring and I’m beginning my gardening in earnest. We have a fairly large flower/native plant area, which—hopefully—both the wild life and we can enjoy together. In looking at a picture our brother-in-law took of my husband and me in the garden, I realized that I was wearing a distinctive t-shirt our daughter gave me. Emblazoned on the front is an image of Monkey King, Sūn Wù-kōng, Sun Wuh-kong 孫悟空.
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. Continue reading
We’ve just celebrated 2 rather high profile Chinese holidays: New Years and the Lantern Festival. Most people know something about these holidays. They are fun, colorful, and celebrated by Chinese and non-Chinese around the world. This picture was taken at the St Louis Missouri Botanical Gardens in 2013.
But there are many other less known festival days that are tied to traditional Chinese culture. Some of these are tied to China’s solar calendar, some the lunar calendar, and some have become intermixed. One such holiday may be 驚蟄 Jing zhe, Insects Awaken. The holiday comes in the 3rd month (note People’s Daily Online). I believe this festival is also called the Shangsi Festival [上巳 節 shàngsì jié, shanghsih jier], which today officially lands on the 3rd day of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar*. Traditionally this began the farming season in most of China.
It is said that the thunder of spring rains awaken the insects who have been hibernating all winter. There are a range of activities to mark this day, such as a sacrificial ceremony held near water where people could clean themselves and rid themselves not only of dirt but also of last year’s bad luck. Driving out evil and bad luck is a critical part of this festival. Wormwood was hung in homes to drive out insects, rats and snakes.
Celebrants also called back the spirits of relatives and awaken their own spirits. And, as often happens, people would go outside and enjoy picnics and hikes. After all, winter was over, the spring rains had started and there was new life everywhere.
Another custom the People’s Daily mentioned was that in some areas the white tiger was honored. This was done to avoid disputes during the coming year. If someone angered or displeased the tiger, that person would have conflicts with others during the year. I especially like this story because it exemplified how important maintaining peaceful coexistence with your neighbors and family was.