Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival

The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese festival that falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, usually around April 4 or 5. It is a time when people pay tribute to their ancestors and deceased loved ones by visiting their graves, cleaning them, and offering sacrifices of food, wine, and other items. The festival has a long history, dating back to ancient times, and has been an important part of Chinese culture for centuries.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the significance of the Qingming Festival, its history and traditions, and how it is celebrated in modern times.

The History and Significance of the Qingming Festival

The origin of the Qingming Festival can be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE). When it was called Hanshi (Cold Food) Festival. Legend has it that during the reign of Duke Wen of Jin. He was a loyal minister named Jie Zitui sacrificed his flesh to feed the duke. That was forced into exile and had nothing to eat. Later, when the duke became king and rewarded his loyal subjects, he forgot about Jie. Who was lived in seclusion with his mother. To remind the king of his past loyalty, Jie set fire to his own house and died in flames. The king was deeply moved and ordered that no fires be lit on that day in memory of Jie, who had only eaten cold food during his lifetime.

Over time, the Cold Food Festival became part of the Qingming Festival, designated as a day to sweep tombs, offer sacrifices, and worship ancestors. In Chinese culture, ancestor worship is an important way to maintain family ties and show respect for elders and forefathers. The Qingming Festival is when people not only clean the graves of their ancestors. They also burn incense, paper money, and other offerings to them. The belief is that by doing so, the spirits of the deceased will be appeased, and blessings will be bestowed upon the living.

Qingming Festival Traditions

The main activity of the Qingming Festival is tomb sweeping. That involves cleaning ancestors’ graves, offering food and wine, and burning incense and paper money. In addition to this, there are other traditional customs associated with the festival:

  1. Flying Kites: In some parts of China, people fly kites during the Qingming Festival. This custom is said to have originated from the belief that the higher the kite flies, the closer it gets to the heavens and the spirits of the ancestors.
  2. Eating Qingming Cakes: Qingming cakes, also known as green rice cakes, are a traditional food eaten during the festival. Made from glutinous rice flour and mugwort, the cakes are steamed and then wrapped in leaves.
  3. Planting Trees: In recent years, it has become popular to plant trees or flowers during the Qingming Festival to pay tribute to the environment and promote environmental protection.
  4. Playing Chinese Chess: Another tradition is to play Chinese chess or other traditional board games, which is said to bring good luck and promote family harmony.

Celebrating Qingming Festival Today

In modern times, the Qingming Festival has become a national holiday in China, and people celebrate it in many ways. Some people still follow the traditional customs. The others spend the day with family and friends, going on outings or having picnics. With the rise of technology, some people even pay tribute to their ancestors online by setting up virtual memorial pages.


The Qingming Festival is an important occasion in Chinese culture. It pays respect to ancestors and loves ones who have passed away. It is a time to reflect on the past and to honour the sacrifices and contributions made by those who have come before us.

During this festival, people perform various customs and traditions. Such as cleaning tombs, offering food and drinks, flying kites, and more. These activities not only show respect to the deceased but also bring people together in a communal celebration of life.

As a significant cultural event, the Qingming Festival has been celebrated for thousands of years. The event has still holds great meaning for many Chinese people today. It is a time to remember and cherish the memories of those who have passed on and to pay tribute to their legacies. Overall, the Qingming Festival is a meaningful and important holiday. That serves as a way for people to connect with their past and honour their ancestors. By participating in these customs and traditions, people can not only show their respect for the deceased. They also deepen their appreciation for their own lives and the contributions of those who have come before them.

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