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清明节 Tomb Sweeping Day
   2015-04-03 15:19:39    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Qin Mei

Qingmingjie(清明节 qīng míng jié), known as 'Tomb Sweeping Day', falls on April 5th this year.

[Photo: baidu]

Qingming Festival literally means 'clear bright festival' and it celebrates the rebirth of nature, the beginning of the planting season and other outdoor activities. It's a traditional Chinese festival on the 15th day from the vernal equinox. It usually falls on either April 4th, 5th or 6th of the solar calendar. It's actually one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that follow the solar calendar.
 
For Chinese people it's also an important day to remember and honour one's ancestors and visit and maintain their graves. Young and old people pray before their ancestors, sweep and tidy their tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks or incense. These rites are very important to most Chinese people.

Some people also carry willow branches with them during Qingmingjie, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors because they think that these willow branches can help ward off the evil ghosts that wander around during Qingming.

In some ways 'Tomb sweeping day' is not only a solemn day to remember those who have passed away, but also a day for excursions, outings and renewal. In ancient times people celebrated with singing, dancing, picnics and kite flying and many of these traditions continue today. People go on family outings and farmers start their spring ploughing in the countryside. Another popular thing to do is to fly kites. These kites come in all different shapes and sizes with many resembling different animals, dragons and fish.

The day before Qingming was called 'Hanshi' in ancient times. It was created by Chong'er, the Duke Wen of the state of Jin (晋文公) during the Spring and Autumn Periods when he accidentally killed his personal friend and servant Jie Zitui (介子推) and his mother in a fire in the hope of making Jie Zitui return to him (Chong'er). So during Hanshi, people were not allowed to use fire to heat up their food, thus it was nicknamed 'the Cold Food Festival'. At that time the Hanshi 'celebration' was combined with the Qingming festival, but was later abandoned by most people. Nowadays, in some places, people still eat dumplings especially made for the occasion.

[sǎo mù] 扫墓 sweep a grave
[chā liǔ] 插柳 carry willow
[tà qīng ] 踏青 go outing
[fàng fēng zhēng] 放风筝 fly kites

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