While the Chinese New Years is the most important festival, the QingMing Festival is significant as a day for remembering ancestors. It falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox (usually around the 5th of April). There are a few names that this festival is called in English such as All Souls Day, Clear Bright Festival, Spring Remembrance, Grave Sweeping Day, etc…
In the following excerpt from Mulan, we can see perhaps the Disney representation of how Ancestors can look after the living.
Historically, filial piety has been one of the most important aspects of Chinese culture. This filial piety extends after death because it is believed that the spirits of dead ancestors will look after the family when they are gone. Offerings of food and money can keep the ancestors happy in the spiritual world, and thus the living family will continually make sure to keep these ancestors happy in order to have their blessing. The origin of the QingMing Festival stretches back over two millennia and is derived from the Hanshi festival which means ‘cold food’. The Hanshi festival was originally held to commemorate a man named Jie Zitui, who had a cut a piece of his own leg for his starving lord to eat when he had been exiled. When his lord, the future Duke Wen returned to power, he forgot about Jie’s sacrifice, and so he left and holed himself into a mountain. Duke Wen, realizing that he wanted to reward Jie tried to find him in the mountain, but couldn’t so tried to weed him out with fire…but instead Jie would be found dead. Eventually the Hanshi festival and the QingMing Festival would be combined into just one and would be interconnected.
As one of the name suggests, QingMing is grave sweeping day, so many family will go to graves to clean and tend to any weeds and underbrush which have grown out of hand around the grave. The family also offer flowers, food, drinks, and paper money for their dead ancestors. School children will also often go to Martyrs’ Park to pay respect to national heroes and martyrs who had sacrificed their lives for China.
|Offerings made to the deceased on QingMing Jie|
Another aspect of QingMing is the spring outing. It is a festival where people go out and appreciate the beauty of Spring, and also marks the day when planting season has resumed. It is a symbol for the end of winter, and the beginning of warm weather and nice rainfall.
Lastly, on this day, kites are flown both during the day and night. Also they will cut the string of the kite to let it fly free, and by doing this it said that it brings good luck and eliminates diseases.