[ 2007-04-05 08:30 ]
Celebrated two weeks after the vernal
equinox, Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that
follows the solar calendar-- typically falling on April 4, 5, or 6.
Chinese name "Qing Ming" literally means "Clear Brightness," hinting at its
importance as a celebration of Spring. Similar to the spring festivals of other
cultures, Tomb Sweeping Day celebrates the rebirth of nature, while marking the
beginning of the planting season and other outdoor activities.
Qing Ming Jie in Ancient Times
times, people celebrated Qing Ming Jie with dancing, singing, picnics, and kite
flying. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the opening of life. In
the capital, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate
the renewing nature of spring. In the villages, young men and women would court
old man takes one last look before leaving the City Cemetery at
Biandanshan of Wuhan, Central China's Hubei
The Tomb Sweeping Day as Celebrated Today
With the passing of time, this celebration of life became a day to the
honor past ancestors. Following folk religion, the Chinese believed that the
spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and
spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good
harvests and more children.
Today, Chinese visit their family graves to
tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away,
and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the
sacrifices at a family's home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist
of dry, bland food. One theory is that since any number of ghosts rome around a
grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the ancestors, and not
be plundered by strangers.
begins with proper positioning of a gravesite and coffin. Experts in feng shui,
or geomancy, determine the quality of land by the surrounding aspects of
streams, rivers, trees, hills, and so forth. An area that faces south, with
groves of pine trees creates the best flow of cosmic energy required to keep
ancestors happy. Unfortunately, nowadays, with China's burgeoning population,
public cemetaries have quickly surplanted private gravesites. Family elders will
visit the gravesite at least once a year to tend to the tombs.
bland food is placed by the tombs on Qing Ming Jie, the Chinese regularly
provide scrumptious offerings to their ancestors at altar tables in their homes.
The food usually consists of chicken, eggs, or other dishes a deceased ancestor
was fond of. Accompanied by rice, the dishes and eating utensils are carefully
arranged so as to bring good luck. Sometimes, a family will put burning incense
with the offering so as to expedite the transfer of nutritious elements to the
ancestors. In some parts of China, the food is then eaten by the entire family.
Besides the traditions of
honoring the dead, people also often fly kits on Tomb Sweeping Day. Kites can
come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Designs could include frogs,
dragonflies, butterflies, crabs, bats, and storks.