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China Ching Ming Holiday

Apr 05, 2018

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").


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