The Qingming Festival (or Tomb Sweeping Day), which goes back 2,500 years, happens on April 4.
This day falls on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. Observed mainly by the Han Chinese and the Chitty people of Malaysia, it’s a time when people honor their ancestors through traditional food offerings and by sweeping tombs.
Interestingly, this festival’s closely linked to farming as well. As temperatures rise and rainfall increases, Qingming is a sign for farmers to plant in spring.
Qingming Festival timeline
It's officially a public holiday
China only recently declared this a public holiday, despite the Festival's ancient history.
Premier Zhou Enlai Honored
Thousands honored the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, Zhou Enlai, during the Qingming Festival. It's customary to honor deceased political figures and martyrs during this time.
- 7th Century BC
The Legend of Jie Zitui
During this festival people hang willow branches in memory of Jie Zitui, an official who cut his own flesh to feed a starving prince named Chong'er.
How to Observe Qingming Festival
Visit your ancestors' tombs
Sweep the tomb, make traditional cold food offerings, and lay lilies and chrysanthemums on tombstones.
Fly "God's Lanterns"
It's traditional to fly kites with a string of little lanterns tied onto them. People fly kites at night as well.
Burn money at night
The Chinese believe that burning currency notes as offerings to the dead will help one buy things in the afterlife.
4 Things To Consider Before Your First Qingming Festival
Not all Chinese celebrate
It might be a public holiday, but only 24 ethnic minorities in China celebrate.
Pre-Qingming tea is more expensive
In Chinese tea culture, tea leaves picked before this date are considered to be of higher quality and fetch a bigger price!
It means "pure brightness"
In Chinese the word Qingming means "pure brightness," and since this festival comes at the beginning of spring, the sun shines brightly.
A food festival too
In the South of China people eat "qingtuan," a tasty rice and barley dumpling; the Tujia ethnic group eats pig heads; and the Miao minority enjoy a pastry called Qingming.
Why Qingming Festival is Important
The Chinese honor their ancestors
Ancestor worship is a very important part of Chinese culture and this is one of the four important Chinese festivals dedicated to ancestors.
It brings the hope of spring
Spring is in the air during Qingming Festival; it's a time for family outings as well as planting.
It has great historical importance
Originating in the Zhou Dynasty, the Qingming Festival has a history that spans more than 2,000 years.