Qing Ming Festival ( 清明节 ), or Clear Brightness Day, was a traditional Chinese festival that fell on April 5 this year. Qing Ming originated from being one of the 24 solar terms ( 二十四节气 ) used in the ancient Chinese’s lunisolar calendar more than 2,500 years ago. The ancient calendar divided the year evenly into 24 significant seasons, each separated by about 15 degree along the ecliptic path of the Sun across the sky. The purpose of the solar terms was to help synchronised farming decisions with the changing season.
Qing Ming as part of 24 Solar Terms (二十四节气)
Qing Ming occurred 15 days after the Spring Equinox and denoted a time of clear skies and abundant sunshine, where leafy trees began to flourish with the gradual warming of the climate. It was popular during Qing Ming for families in China to venture out to the open to enjoy the warmth and greenery of the springtime after a harsh winter, a term known as green treading ( 踏青 ). In particular, activities such as excursions, hiking and mountain climbing were very popular.
Green Treading ( 踏青 ) during Qing Ming.
Another activity commonly associated with Qing Ming was tomb sweeping ( 扫墓 ). As such, Qing Ming was also known as Tomb Sweeping Day. After surviving the harsh winter, Chinese families wanted to give thanks to their ancestors and to ensure that their graves were not destroyed by the heavy snowfall. In addition, it was considered a good feng shui practice to have their ancestors buried on or near mountainous sites. Hence, the green treading and tomb sweeping activities were associated.
Tomb Sweeping ( 扫墓 ) during Qing Ming.
Qing Ming was also a time where extended families reunited. Carefully prepared meals and wines were brought to the tombs as offerings, and would later be retrieved and shared among the gathered family members. The tomb sweeping activity took on a greater significance in Qing Ming for Chinese living in the south as well as in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia where winter was absent and where the 24 solar terms and green treading were less relevant.
Tree Planting ( 植树 ) during Qing Ming.
Qing Ming was also associated with tree planting ( 植树 ). Young saplings planted during this period of abundant rainfall and sunlight grew fastest and had a greater chance of surviving. In 2008, the Chinese Government reinstated Qing Ming as a public holiday which further reinforced the tomb sweeping tradition, promoted greenery and helped spurred environmental awareness.
清明节, qīng míng jié, - Qing Ming Festival
二十四节气, èr shí sì jié qì, – 24 Solar Terms
踏青, tà qīng, - Green Treading
扫墓, sǎo mù, - Tomb Sweeping
植树, zhí shù, - Tree Planting
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