Qing Ming Festival- is a time to get-together




Photo by ChrisY

The Qing ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day ( All Souls Day in English) falls on Friday April 4, 2008

Qing ming is frequently mentioned in Chinese literature. Among these, the most famous one is probably Du Mu’s poem (simply titled “Qing ming”):

清明時節雨紛紛 / qīng míng shí jié yǔ fēn fēn

路上行人欲斷魂 / lù shàng xíng rén yù duàn hún

借問酒家何處有 / jiè wèn jiǔ jiā hé chù yǒu

牧童遙指杏花村 / mù tóng yáo zhǐ xìng huā cūn

English Translation

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.

Qing Ming is a time to get-together and it is a day to remember and honour one’s ancestors. Many who are working away from their home to return to join their families to perform qing ming to show of respect.

These days, Chinese families who visit the graves on Qing Ming no longer dress in dark-coloured clothes. The mood is more upbeat. People are all dressed up and even bring along radio for this outing as families come together for a reunion of sorts.

Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, josssticks. Paper offerings of material goods including hell money, big paper bungalow house with maids would also be burnt for the dead. Firecrackers are also let off to “awaken the spirits to receive the gifts”.

Most family members will visit the graves for this yearly festival as they believe their ancestors in return will give them health, peace, luck and prosperity. Some even hope to be blessed in winning 4 digit lotteries.

6 responses to “Qing Ming Festival- is a time to get-together

  1. These are really great photos. Thanks for sharing them as well as the backstory and what it’s about. I had never heard of Qing Ming before I saw this post.


  2. Very interesting commentary and photos. Thanks.

  3. Pingback: Qing Ming and Tomb Sweeping « Visuallens

  4. Life in the stream of death, beatuiful but sad.

  5. Love your amazing Qing Ming blog and the photos of all the tomb stones – just like modern day flats! Why are cemeteries so often build on hillsides? Is it because the land can’t be cultivated, so it is given over to the dead?

    You refer to “hell money”. Does this suggest the soul is in “fire burning hell” as the Judeo-Christian world understand the concept of “hell”, or is this a different kind of hell?

    I’ve never heard of digging up the remains to be re-buried. Is this a religious requirement, or optional and up to the descendants?

  6. Hi Ah Kheong
    You sound like a western Chinese and your questions just make me difficult to give you a total sastifactory answer. I merely follow the traditional customs set by my parents.

    Many of the old graveyards are on hilly land. It could be an old chinese belief of good fung-shui or just simply because hills are gazetted for burial since hills are unlikely to be used for housing or buildings.. Only lately burying the dead has been commercialized and therefore the old way of hill-side graveyards are not so popular.

    There is much advertisements to attract buyers to “invest” in these modern graves which show heavenly beautiful landscapes to impress the living of a better there-after. These modern
    graveyards occupy a vast flat land which are well utilized with rows and rows of graves neatly set side by side.The costs is definetly very much more compared to the old traditional graveyards.

    Many Chinese belief that there is value in “hell money” so they burn it to their beloved departed ones. so that they may have money to spend in” hell” or “heaven”.They are just following this traditional custom handed down from their parents and grand parents..

    The coffin burried under the earth decayed after some years and the land of grave slipped.. We just followed my mum’s instruction and the grave had a redo, the bones were collected and put into an urn and replaced into the same spot.

    Not every Chinese will do the same and many are done out of repect for the dead. They believe that the new and better tomb ( follow the fung-shui ) will give the present and next generation better fortune.

    Qing Ming is just All Soul Day(Western or Christian)…it is a day to remember and honour the dead. It is usually falls on April 4 every year. But to many Chinese here, the date has changed.Some will observe the actual date but many will arrange their own date to their own convenience, either one week before or after the actual date.

    The Chinese here are mainly Buddists however some of the Chinese Christians will just follow their family members to go to the grave during Qing Ming as a compromise to their unbelieving spouse.

    What you say Ah Keong? I really don’t know I am able to give you a good anwser,the present generation is just actually following the traditional custom set by our great great grand accestor.

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