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Qingming (Pure and Brightness)

An Introduction to Qingming (Pure and Brightness)

The Qingming Festival usually falls in April in the solar calendar. Qingming (Pure and Brightness) is one of the 24 solar terms in China. The 24 solar terms represent the climate changes in a year; peasants arrange their faming activities according to them. But the Qingming Festival is not only a seasonal point to guide farm work but more a festival of commemoration.

The origin of Qingming Festival
Qinming Festival originated from Hanshi Day (Day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui. Jie Zitui died in 636 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was one of many followers of Duke Wen of Jin before he became a duke. Once, during Wen's 19 years of exile, they had no food and Jie prepared some meat soup for Wen. Wen enjoyed it a lot and wondered where Jie had obtained the soup. It turned out Jie had cut a piece of meat from his own thigh to make the soup. Wen was so moved he promised to reward him one day. However, Jie was not the type of person who sought rewards. Instead, he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become duke. Once Wen became duke, Jie resigned and stayed away from him. Duke Wen rewarded the people who helped him in the decades, but for some reason he forgot to reward Jie, who by then had moved into the forest with his mother. Duke Wen went to the forest, but could not find Jie. Heeding suggestions from his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set the forest on fire to force out Jie. However, Jie died in the fire. Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without fire to honor Jie's memory.

It was not until the Qing Dynasty about 300 years ago that the practice of Hanshi or eating cold food was replaced by that of Qingming , which had now become an important occasion for people to offer sacrifices to their ancestors.

Activities in Qingming Festival
The Qingming Festival is an occasion of unique characteristics, integrating sorrowful tears to the dead with the continuous laughter from the spring outing.

Tomb Sweeping
Qingming Festival is a traditional festival and the most important sacrificing and sweep the tomb (to commemorate a dead person at his grave) day to the ancestors in China. Han Nationality and some other ethnic nationalities will sweep the tomb at that day. According to the old customs, people should take wine, food, fruits and zhiqian (paper made to resemble money and burned as an offering to the dead) to the graves. The food, fruits and wine should be placed before the grave and zhiqian should be burned at the grave. People add some fresh soil to the grave and put some tender tree branches on it. Then the food can be eaten before people go back.

Spring Outing
Qingming is not just a day of remembrance, is also a day to celebrate the coming of spring, often by going out for a picnic. With the coming of spring, nature wakes up, dressing the world in green. All is new, clean and fresh.Qingming Festival is usually in the period of 4th to 6th of lunar calendar. It is a good time for traveling in the open air because plants turn green at this period. Chinese people liked going around and doing some sports outside. Even in nowadays, Qingming Festival is popular. Besides, spring outings not only add joy to life but also promote a healthy body and mind.

Flying Kites
Springtime, especially in North China, is the windy season, just right for flying kites. It is not surprising that kite flying is very popular during the Qingming season. The history of the kite in China is very interesting. It is said that the kite was invented by the famous legendary carpenter Lu Ban over 2,000 years ago. In the Qing Dynasty, people would fly their kites as high as possible, then let go of the string. Off went the kite, taking with it bad luck and illness. Conversely, to pick up a kite lost or released by someone else could bring bad luck.

Today the annual Weifang Kite Festival held every April in East China's Shandong Province has become a major event, attracting thousands of tourists and kite flying competitors all over the world.

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