Qingming, which means clear and bright in Chinese, falls on April 5th this year. It is both the fifth term in the traditional lunar calendar and a festival to hold memorial ceremonies for the dead. It is a time to express one's grief for lost relatives. An ancient elegiac poem described a grievous woman. It read that vines were tangled in vain and weeds crept in the graveyard, and her husband slept there lonely. It was so difficult for her to endure and her only wish was to reunite with him after death.
People often go to sweep and weed graves with the entire family and take a walks in the countryside. Therefore, in Tang Dynasty, the habit of taking an excursion on this day was developed. At this time, spring returns and dominates the earth again. The feel of growing life is in the air, with sap ascending in trees and buds bursting. The willow branches inserted on each gate add vigor and vitality to the surroundings, but it actually means more than that. This custom can be traced back to over one thousand years ago.
During the Period of spring and autumn in the Jin Kingdom, one of the King's sons was called Chong Er. Jealous of his talent, a concubine falsely accused him of rebellion to make her son the crown prince. As a result, he had no choice but to flee with several officials. They hid themselves in a mountain and went hungry for quite some time. An official named Jie Zitui took great pain to cut some flesh from his thigh and cooked it for Chong Er. When the fact was known the young master was moved to tears and knelt down in gratitude. Jie replied his best repayment should be a just king. They lived a cold life of starvation for three years until the evil concubine died. Many soldiers were sent to look for him and to escort him back home. Going into the carriage, he saw an official packed an old mat onto a horse, he said laughingly, 'what on earth is the use of that? Throw it away!' Jie Zitui heard it and sighed, 'It is hardship that can be shared with his majesty but not prosperity.' As a result, he went away quietly and lived in seclusion with his old mother.
As Chong Er became king, he rewarded many people but he forgot Jie Zitui. He did not realize it until he was reminded. However, his invitation was refused and he became angry. Soldiers were ordered to burn up the mountain to force Jie to come out. Finally they found Jie and his mother scorched under a willow. He would rather die than yield to power. Chong Er was so overwhelmed with regret that he ordered people to hold memorial ceremony for Jie. Therefore, in memory of Jie, every year on that day people mourned for him and ate cold meals the day before. Later the custom of inserting willow branches on gates was also added.