Qingming Festival, also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-sweeping Day, is one of the 24 segments of the Chinese calendar. It normally falls on the 4th or 5th of April, between spring plowing and summer weeding, and is a time to pay respects to one's ancestors and to tidy their gravesite. On this day, whole families, young and old, go to the gravesite of deceased family members to burn incense and perform a ritual offering while clearing away plant overgrowth from the gravesite.
Qingming Festival is when Chinese people visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors. Traditionally, people brought a whole rooster with them to the graves visited but the occasion has become less formal over time.
The festival originated from Hanshi Day (寒食节, literally, Day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui (介子推). Jie Zitui died in 636 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period.
He was one of many followers of Duke Wen of Jin before he became a duke. Once, during Wen's 19 years of exile, they had no food and Jie prepared some meat soup for Wen. Wen enjoyed it a lot and wondered where Jie had obtained the soup. It turned out Jie had cut a piece of meat from his own thigh to make the soup.
Wen was so moved he promised to reward him one day. However, Jie was not the type of person who sought rewards. Instead, he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become king. Once Wen became duke, Jie resigned and stayed away from him. Duke Wen rewarded the people who helped him in the decades, but for some reason he forgot to reward Jie, who by then had moved into the forest with his mother.
Duke Wen went to the forest, but could not find Jie. Heeding suggestions from his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set the forest on fire to force out Jie. However, Jie died in the fire. Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without fire to honour Jie's memory. The county where Jie died is still called Jiexiu (介休, literally "the place Jie rests forever").
Qing Ming is a time to remember the dead and the dearly departed. More important, it is a period to honour and to pay respect to one's deceased ancestors and family members. Because it reinforces the ethic of filial piety, Qing Ming is a major Chinese festival.
Literally meaning "clear" (Qing) and "bright" (Ming), this Chinese festival falls in early spring, on the 106th day after the winter solstice. It is a "spring" festival, and it is an occasion for the whole family to leave the home and to sweep the graves of their forebears. Chinese being practical people this sweeping of the graves is given an extended period, that is, 10 days before and after Qing Ming day. Among some dialect groups a whole month is allocated.
The tomb sweeping day is one of the traditional festivals in China. On April 5th, people start to visit their ancestors’ tombs. Generally speaking, people will bring the home-made food, some fake money and paper-made mansion to their ancestors. When they start to honour their ancestor, they will light up some candles and incense, put some flowers around the tombs. The most important thing is to put the home-made food in front of the tombs. The food, also known as sacrifices, is usually made up with a chicken, a fish and some pork. It’s a symbol of the offspring’s respect to the ancestors. People believe that the forbears will share the food with them. The children dedicate the food and money to their forbears in order to show their love and caring. The young offspring will go down on their knees and pray for their ancestors. They can say their wishes in front of the tombs and the ancestors will make their dreams come true.
In some provinces of China, people use different activities to commemorate this day, for instance, spring-outing, swinging, tree planting and making special food. One special food is Ay Tsao rice balls. It looks like Tang-yuan, but its colour is green. Mix the ay tsao juice with the rice powder, then make it into small balls. The Ay Tsao rice ball is done. People believe that eating ay tsao rice balls can get rid of the bad luck and everything will go smoothly. Other activities such as spring outing, tree planting are the other ways to commemorate the forbears. For one thing, it is a sign that people should look into the future and embrace the hope; for another thing, we do hope our ancestor rest in peace.