The Qing Ming Festival (清明节 Qing Ming Jie) is a Traditional Chinese Festival that occurs on the 104th day after the Winter Solstice or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox. On the Gregorian Calendar, it is usually around 4th, 5th or 6th of April.
Also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, Clear Bright Festival or Ancestors Day, the Qing Ming Festival is also one of the 24 Solar Term. The Qing Ming Festival falls on the first day of the fifth solar term, named Qing Ming (清明). Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and tend to the graves of departed ones.
Qing Ming Festival has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in Taiwan and in the Chinese jurisdictions of Hong Kong and Macau. Its observance was reinstated as a public holiday in mainland China in 2008.
However, it is not a public holiday in many other Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
Most of the Chinese community would pick the nearest weekend during this period to visit the graves of their deceased relatives and ancestors or to visit the temples where the ashes of their ancestors is stored.
Qing Ming Festival also has a significance in the Chinese Tea Culture, since this specific day divides the fresh green tea leaves by their picking dates. “Pre-Qing Ming” (清明前) tea leaves commands a higher price tag because they are prized for having a lighter and subtler aroma than those picked after Qing Ming.
The Qing Ming festival originated from the Han Shi Festival (寒食节 Han Shi Jie) or Cold Food Festival.
In Korea, it is called Hansik (한식), meaning cold food, and in Vietnam, it is called Tết Hàn Thực
The Cold Food Festival is a memorial day for Jie Zi Tui (介子推), who was one of the many followers of Chong’er (重耳), the prince from the state of Jin (晋国).
Before Chong’er became the Duke Wen of Jin (晉文公), he was suffered many hardships during his 19 years of exile. There was once when they had no food, and being a loyal follower, Jie Zi Tui cut off the flesh from his own thigh to make a soup for Chong’er.
When Chong’er realised Jie‘s royalty, he promised to reward Jie one day. When Chong’er finally returned to the state of Jin to become the King, the Duke Wen of Jin, he rewarded everyone who helped him but somehow, have forgotten about Jie. By then, Jie have already moved into the forest with his mother, because he was not the type who soughts rewards and luxury, and he cannot work with the hypocritical Officials governing the state.
When Duke Wen wanted to look for Jie to return to his service, and cannot find him in the forest, his officials suggested that they set the forest on fire to force Jie out. However, the fire killed Jie and his mother instead. Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without using fire in any activity, and food was to be consumed cold, to honour Jie. The place where Jie died is called Jie Xiu (介休), which means “the place where Jie rests forever“.
Qing Ming is often accompanied by rain, and it is also reflected in a poem about Qing Ming from a Tang Dynasty poet, Du Mu (杜牧).
清明时节雨纷纷 (A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day)
路上行人欲断魂 (The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way)
借问酒家何处有 (Where can a tavern inn be found to drown his sadness?)
牧童遥指杏花村 (A shepherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance)
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