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Qingming Festival - Discover the Tomb Sweeping Day in China

by Jingxuan Zhang on Mar 27, 2024
Discover the Qingming Festival in China
China, as a country with many years of history and culture, also has many traditional festivals that have been passed down since ancient times. Behind every festival, there is their unique story. Today let's learn about a festival that belongs to spring - Qingming Festival, also known as “Tomb Sweeping Day”.

Origins of Qingming Festival: Reminisce from 2500 Years Ago

2500 years ago, there was a story that touched the hearts of Chinese people. Once, China was a country ruled by many emperors, and the whole country was always at war. One of the emperors was called Gin. His son Chong’er was hunted by his enemies, he had a very hard life on the run. There was one time when Chong’er almost starved to death, but one of his followers, Jan Zi, cut off the flesh from his leg and fed it to Chong’er, saving his life. Years after Chong’er’s escape, he returned to his father’s side and rewarded all his followers. However, Jan Zi refused all the rewards and decided to live in the mountains with his mother, never to come out again.
Chong’er was desperate to see his lifesaver, but Jan Zi wouldn’t come out anyway. So he made a foolish decision: to set fire to the mountain. “Jan Zi loves his mother, he will definitely come out with her”, he thought,  but they never came out of the fire, it burned them to death.
To honor Jan Zi, Chong’er ordered that fires be banned on that day every year, so families could not light fires to cook and had to eat cold food. This is the origin of the Qingming Festival, also called the Cold Food Festival. Because of this, there are many cold food snacks at this festival, which are very popular among people. People also visit graves on this day.

Modern Qingming Festival: A holiday to enjoy

In the modern Qingming Festival, people take a three-day vacation in early April. They basically do two things: sweeping tombs and diving in spring.
During tomb-sweeping, people bring all kinds of sacrificial food to the tombstones of their loved ones, light incense, put peaches, white wine, and roasted chicken in front of their graves, and talk to those who have passed away. In China, cemeteries are often located in the mountains with a nice view.

So while sweeping the graves, people also go trekking, enjoying the beauty of spring with thoughts of their loved ones.
Some young people working in big cities don't have time to return to their loved ones, so they often choose to use these days to go to parks around the city, have picnics and gatherings, and enjoy the beauty of spring. Others will choose to play games at home to relax mentally and physically. In any case, the Qingming Festival is a festival full of spring weather and not too heavily bound by traditional customs. Everyone will enjoy it while looking forward to the arrival of spring.

Qingming Festival Treats: Like sweets? Don’t miss it!

There are many traditional dishes for the Qingming Festival. But the most popular one is a sweet called green dumpling. It has a round shape and chewy texture and comes in a variety of flavors to choose from.
Like another widely recognized Chinese delicacy buns, green dumplings are made up of a skin and a filling. However, unlike buns, green dumplings can only be eaten cold.The outer skin of green dumplings is made of glutinous rice flour with the addition of mugwort juice, giving it a tender green color like grass and a fresh smell.

The fillings, on the other hand, come in a rich variety of flavors. The traditional and popular one is the bean paste filling, which is sweet with the unique aroma of beans. Fresh milk filling, salted egg yolk, and meat floss filling have recently appeared and are more popular among young people.

Au Pair in China: Have your first Qingming Festival

If you are coming to China as an Au Pair in the spring, then congratulations, the Qingming Festival will be the first traditional Chinese festival you will experience! Now that you know some of the customs of the Qingming Festival, here are some things you can do with your Host Family: 
  • Ask them in advance about the date of their visit to the mountain to visit the graves, and prepare some light-colored clothes to commemorate their family members together
  • Hold the incense with both hands and bow respectfully in front of the tombstone during the incense offering
  • Go on a picnic together to experience the fun of a Chinese picnic
  • Purchase some live-made green dumplings on the street and experience the different flavors.
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