Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day)

Chinese festivals are truly fascinating and we love to share what we know with you.

One of many intriguing festivals is the Qingming Festival. It started during the Zhou Dynasty and has a history of over 2,500 years. In the year 732, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty declared that respect should be paid at ancestors’ graves on the first day of the Qingming solar term. From then on, sweeping tombs on the first of Qingming gradually became popular with both royal and common families. They offered sacrifices to their ancestors and beseeched them to bless the country with prosperity, peace and a good harvest. It is an important day of sacrifice for the Chinese people to go and sweep tombs and commemorate their ancestors.

Learn more about the death culture in China!

Various activities are observed during the festival,  including tomb sweeping, special outings to enjoy spring and kite flying. Placing willow branches on tombs and front doors is said to ward off evil spirits. Traditional pictures of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, often show her seated on a rock with a willow branch in a vase of water at her side. The goddess used this mysterious water and branch to scare away demons.

Qingming is also called the Taqing Festival – Taqing means a spring outing, when people get out and about to enjoy the warmer weather.

Kites
Flying kites for Qingming Festival

Flying kites is an important custom. Little coloured lanterns are tied to the kites or to the strings that hold the kites so when kites fly in the evening, the lanterns look like twinkling stars. In the past, people cut the string to let the kite fly freely as it was believed that this custom can bring good luck and eliminate disease.

The Chinese love food and incorporate different dishes for each festival. Food for the Qingming Festival is cooked one or two days before and eaten cold. Traditional foods eaten include delicacies such as:

  • Sweet green rice balls
  • Peach blossom porridge
  • Crispy cakes
  • Qingming snails

The 2017 Qingming Festival took place earlier this week on Tuesday 4th April when Shimu Director James was in China.