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China Information >> Folk Culture
 
Tomb Sweeping Festival

Tomb-sweeping Festival

(Usually falls on April 5) When the dead are honored with offerings and the burning of incense and paper money.

Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Brightness Festival are the most common English translations of Qingming Festival. Tomb Sweeping Day is used in several English language newspapers published in the Republic of China.

For the Chinese, it is a day to remember and honour one,s ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, and/or libation to the ancestors. The rites are very important to most Chinese and especially farmers. Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors.

They think that willow branches help ward off the evil ghosts that wander on Qingming. Also on Qingming, people go on family outings, start the spring plowing, sing, dance, and Qingming is a time where young couples start courting. Another popular thing to do is fly kites (in shapes of animals, or characters from Chinese opera). 

Qingming, meaning clear and bright, is the most important springtime festival. It is also called Tomb Sweeping Festival, on which people visit the gravesites of their ancestors, pay respects to the dead at their tombs and hold memorial ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. This is one of many ways to demonstrate filial piety. As part of honoring the dead, people would also spend some time cleaning the gravesite area. They would uproot the weed near the gravesite, plant some new trees, wipe the tombstones and decorate the tombstone with fresh flowers.

But it is not just a day for mourning the dead. The festival is celebrated two weeks after the Vernal Equinox, and the dates usually turn out to be the 4th, 5th, or 6th of April, thus people also go out to celebrate the new season, the onset of warmer weather, the start of spring plowing as well as of family outings. Nowadays, Qingming is not just a day of remembrance; it is also a day to celebrate the coming of spring. With the coming of spring, nature wakes up, dressing the world in green. All is new, clean and fresh; therefore, Qingming is also a happy occasion for outdoor activities, such as picnicking, tug-of-war, kite-flying, swinging, dancing, etc. This might be an important reason why this festival has been very popular for thousands of years.