This year, the Ching Ming Festival will be marked on April 4. The festival is usually observed 15 days after the spring equinox, calculated from the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It falls on day one of the fifth solar term. The day is also called Chinese Memorial Day, Tomb-Sweeping Day, and Ancestors Day. On this day, Chinese families visit and clean the tombs of their deceased family members. A few festival activities include tomb cleaning, praying to the ancestors, burning joss sticks and paper, and making ritual offerings. Read on to learn more about this cultural significant holiday.
History of Cheng Ming Festival
The Ching Ming (‘Qingming’) Festival is a 2,500-year-old Chinese tradition mainly observed by the Han Chinese of mainland China. It also has roots in the Hanshi or Cold Food Festival, which remembers the tale of ‘Jie Zitui.’ According to the legend, while in exile, Jie Zitui once cut the flesh from his thighs to make soup for his master, Prince Chong’er. When the prince got his power back and became the duke, he tried to bring Jie to court. Jie saw corruption in politics and chose to retire to the forest.
The duke gave the order to set fire to the forest, hoping that it would smoke Jie out, but Jie and his mother died in the forest fire. Filled with remorse, the duke erected a temple in his honor. People stopped lighting fires for a month to honor the memory of Jie. People had to consume cold food during the festival since the use of fire was prohibited. The festival lasted a month and resulted in hardship, malnutrition, and a few deaths due to cold food intake during cold winters. Because of this, it was reduced to three days during the three kingdom period in China. The festival was also shifted to spring to avoid further casualties during the harsh winters.
The Ching Ming Festival is a day for cleaning the tombs of your loved ones and ancestors, a tradition that is still strong in China, even after 2,500 years.
Cheng Ming Festival timeline
Jie Zitui, a nobleman from the state of Jin, follows his master, Price Chong'er, into exile.
Duke Mu of Qin invades Jin and enthrones Chong'er as the new Duke.
Jie Zitui dies in a forest fire.
Authorities limit the number of days for the Hanshi Festival from a month to three days.
Cheng Ming Festival FAQs
Why is Ching Ming celebrated?
It is an important day for most people to visit and sweep tombs and commemorate their ancestors.
What does Qingming symbolize?
The name ‘Qingming’ symbolizes springtime. It is a day for people to go outside, enjoy the greenery, and look after the graves of those who have died.
What can I burn for Ching Ming?
Burning joss paper — and sometimes, real money — is a traditional Chinese practice. They believe it’s a means of sending money and material goods to their ancestors.
How to Observe Cheng Ming Festival
Clean the tombs
The day is best observed by cleaning the tombs of your loved ones. Cut the weeds and overgrown foliage, burn incense, and offer your respects and prayers to your ancestors.
Light a ‘God’s Lantern’
Thousands of lanterns flying through the sky is an iconic sight of the day. Prepare a god’s lantern and let it fly at night after lighting it.
Go on spring outings
This is an important day for self-care. Take a day off and wander through the beautiful woods, adoring the flowery fragrance and the beauty of nature.
5 Facts About Ching Ming Festival
The Qingming pastry
The main pastry eaten on the day is ‘Qingming’ made from glutinous rice flour blended with freshly-pressed wormwood juice.
The use of chrysanthemums
Chrysanthemum flowers are offered on the tombs on Ching Ming Day.
Burn for afterlife
People burn goods and sometimes money as an offering to their dead relatives.
It is a national event
The festival was listed as one of the Chinese national cultural heritage events on May 20, 2006.
The pure bright festival
It is also known as Qingming Festival which means ‘Pure Bright Festival.’
Why Cheng Ming Festival is Important
A time to honor your ancestors
We love and appreciate culture and tradition. Ching Ming festival is an important day to celebrate culture, family values, and our ancestors.
A time to enjoy spring
The day falls just two weeks after the spring equinox. It is a perfect holiday to spend in nature, enjoying the good vibes and lush greenery of the world.
A tale of sacrifice and loyalty
The festival is based on the story of Jie Zitui. It is a good day to understand his loyalty and sacrifice, and his unfortunate death.
Cheng Ming Festival dates