It is one of the four major traditional festivals, namely, the Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, that are celebrated by the Chinese. It is the only Chinese festival which occurs on one of the solar terms of the traditional calendar, usually on April 4, 5 or 6. Prior to the Tang Dynasty, Qingming functioned primarily as one of the 24 solar terms that reflected natural changes of seasons and were closely associated with timing of agricultural activities. After the Tang and Song dynasties, Qingming took the place of the Hanshi (“Cold Food”) Festival, and the practices of sweeping ancestral graves and eating cold food became prominent features of the Qingming Festival. At this time of year, with the coming of spring, all living things are bursting with vitality, and people go on country outings, plant willows, fly kites and play on swings. Today, Qingming has remained a festival of special significance to the Chinese. On May 20, 2006, it was put on the first list of national-level intangible cultural heritages by the Chinese government.
Qing Ming is popularly associated with Jie Zi Zhui, who lived in Shanxi province in 600 B.C. Legend has it that Jie saved his starving lord's life by serving a piece of his own leg. When the lord succeeded in becoming the ruler of a small principality, he invited his faithful follower to join him. However, Jie declined his invitation, preferring to lead a hermit's life with his mother in the mountains.
Believing that he could force Jie out by burning the mountain, the lord ordered his men to set the forest on fire. To his consternation, Jie chose to remain where he was and was burnt to death. To commemorate Jie, the lord ordered all fires in every home to be put out on the anniversary of Jie's death. Thus began the "cold food feast", a day when no food could be cooked since no fire could be lit.
The "cold food" festival occurs on the eve of Qing Ming and is often considered as part of the Qing Ming festival. As time passes, the Qing Ming festival replaced the "cold food" festival. Whatever practice is observed，the basic observation of Qing Ming is to remember one's elders by making a special effort to visit their graves, ashes or ancestral tablets. To make the visit even more meaningful, some time should be spent to remind the younger members of the family of the lives and contributions of their ancestors, and the story of Jie Zi Zhui who choose death over capitulation.
A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day
The mourner's heart is going to break on his way.
Where can a wineshop be found to drown his sad hours?
A cowherd points to a cot 'mid apricot flowers.
It drizzles thick and fast on the Mourning Day,
The mourner travels with his heart lost in dismay.
When asked for a wineshop to kill his gloomy time,
A cowboy points at Almond Hamlet far away.
The ceaseless drizzle drips all the dismal day,
So broken-hearted fares the traveler on the way.
When asked where could be found at avern bower,
Acow boy points to yonder village of the apricot flower.
It drizzles endless during the rainy season in spring,
Travelers along the road look gloomy and miserable.
When I ask a shepherd boy where I can find a tavern,
He points at a distant hamlet nestling amidst apricot blossoms.
It drizzles thick and fast on the Pure Brightness Day,
I travel with my heart lost in dismay.
"Is there a public house somewhere, cowboy?"
He points at Apricot Village faraway.
The rain falls thick and fast on All Souls' Day,
The men and women sadly move along the way.
They ask where wineshops can be found or where to rest ----
And there the herdboy's fingers Almond-Town suggest.
Upon theClear-and-Bright Feast of spring, the rain drizzleth down in spray.
Pedestrians on countryside ways, in gloom are pinning away.
When asked "Where a tavern fair for rest, is hereabouts to befound",
The shepherd boy the Apricot Bloom Vill, doth point to afar and say.
Green rice ball 青团
People in the Jiangnan region often eat this kind of greencolored balls made from glutinous rice on Tomb Sweeping Day. The green color isfrom the juice of brome grass that is added in the rice.
San zi 馓子
In both Northern and Southern China, it is a tradition to eatsan zi, or fried dough twist, on Tomb Sweeping Day. The differences between sanzi made by Northern and Southern people lie in sizes and materials. The formerone is larger, often made from wheat and the latter is finer and made fromrice.
Thin pancake 薄饼
People in Xiamen in Fujian province often have thin pancakes onTomb Sweeping Day. Dried seaweed, omelette, veggies and chili sauce are addedin the pancakes to enhance the flavor.