For those tourists who visit China for learning more about Chinese culture, Qingming should be known if you happen to come to China during Qingming.
Tomb Sweeping Day, also called "Cold Food Day", is the most important day for people to offer sacrifice to ancestors. It started from the Zhou Dynasty, with a history of over 2500 years. Qingming is one of the 24 solar terms in China, indicating the coming of late spring, thus the best plowing and growing time, while "Cold Food Day" is a day when folks sweep the ancestors' tombs and eat cold food. Qingming was adjacent to Cold Food Day, so later on they gradually became one festival, and thus "Cold Food" became another name for Qingming, and dusting the tomb and eating cold food turned into the customs of Qing Ming. Qing Ming has evolved into a culture-rich and meaning-deep remembrance day.
Since people with weak constitutions might get hurt by eating cold raw food on Qingming, when the weather is still cold, various activities were invented for body-building, like stepping-the-green outgoing, swing, Chinese football, polo, willow-planting, tug-of-war, and rooster-fighting, etc.
Since the ancient times, there have been a lot of works of art and poems about Qingming, manifesting the emphasis and passing-on of the Chinese people on Qingming. Of these, Tomb Sweeping Day by Du Mu in the Tang Dynasty is a poem of household fame.
This is a story about the Cold Food Festival. It happened in the Jin State 2000 years ago during the Spring and Autumn Period.
Chong Er was the prince of Jin. During the internal conflict of the court, Chong Er was set up by some treacherous officials, and his father was made to believe that Chong Er was going to rebel. The King flew into a rage and commanded to kill Chong Er. So Chong Er had to run away from the country.
When he was on his way to escape, Chong Er and his subordinates got lost in the mountain. For several days, they didn't get enough food, and Chong Er was almost starved to death.
To save Chong Er, one of his subjects named Jie Zitui secretly cut a piece of flesh from his own thigh and roasted it to feed Chong Er.
When Chong Er later found out, he was moved to tears.
Years later, Chong Er became the King of the Jin Kingdom. He wanted to thank Jie and asked him to be his minister, but Jie refused and hid in the mountain. To force him to go out of the mountain, Chong Er asked his men to set a fire to the mountain. Unfortunately, Jie Zitui did not come down the mountain and was burnt to death instead. Filled with sorrow and regret, Chong Er ordered that no one should make fire to cook and only cold food can be eaten on that day every year.
And from that day on, people began to offer sacrifice to the ancestors and martyrs. The Cold Food Festival was gradually evolved into the "Qingming Festival". The Chinese will go to dust the tombs of ancestors as a means of commemorating the deceased. Therefore, the Qingming Festival is also called "Tomb Sweeping Day".
Chinese usually sweep tombs and fly kites on this day. Because Jie Zitui died at the foot of a willow, the Chinese also cut sticks of willow and hang them over their gates.
If you want to learn more about Qingming, you can get more from China tour agents.
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