Tomb Sweeping Festival (清明节） Posted by Stephen on Apr 5, 2010 in Culture, Uncategorized
As the Easter holiday weekend passes here in the west, China is already taking part in one of it’s historic, yet newly reinstated holidays: the Qing Ming Jie (清明节）or Tomb Sweeping Festival. While a staple of Taiwanese, Macau and Hong Kong traditions, the 清明节，much like the Tet in Vietnamese culture is a holiday that falls upon the fifth day of the fifth solar term, hence the name 清明 （or clear and bright). While it falls a couple weeks after the Vernal Equinox, it is just as much a celebration of Spring, death and rebirth.
During 清明节 we honor our ancestors and those no longer with us. The English name “Tomb Sweeping Day” highlights this point, as many people visit tomb sites and clean them, make offerings, burn incense and usually partake in what many of us westerners would consider “spring cleaning” right around this very time. Much like the concepts of Easter, the idea of being renewed （复兴 fùxīng）and reborn is prevalent.
While the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) usually falls during the dead of winter, 清明节 is truly a “Spring Festival”. Around this time, the weather in China is finally emerging from it’s winterly hibernation as flowers begin to bloom and parasols (旱伞 hànsǎn) fill the streets. Around this time, the weather makes a real turn for the better, as coal burning pollution and smog lessons due to the lack of heating or cooling required in these temperate times. As a result, people take to the streets, parks and fields are a bustled and a fresh breath of life is blown into the lungs of the people.
I understand now why the Chinese government reinstated this holiday some 3 years back now. It’s an attempt to spurn consumerism, travel and get people outside of their apartments, giving them a concrete date in which to finally welcome spring. Case in point: in the very very warm days leading up to 清明节 almost all of our Chinese neighbors were still weather thermal underwear, heavy jackets and layers (even in 60 plus degree Fahrenheit weather). It looked unbearable, and seemed ridiculous. Yet, once 清明节 was announced, these same people, as if trusting the Calendar or the Party over mother nature, suddenly were wearing shorts, skirts and sandals! Whether it be a decree from the heavens above, or from the mighty solar calendar, one thing is for certain: spring is here to stay.
Enjoy the weather and holidays.
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