What do you know about Chinese Tomb-Sweeping Day?

Qingming festival is a time for remembering and honoring loved ones who have departed.

Qīng míng jié (清明节, Qingming Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day) — A festival for remembering and honoring one’s ancestors

Date: April 4th or 5th of the solar calendar

Official Qingming holiday in China: April 2 to 4, 2017

Popular activities: ancestor worship, tomb sweeping, spring outings and kite flying

There are paper imitations of clothing, gold bar, iPhone and other articles of daily use in the paper handbags. The yellow paper is called “jīnzhǐ” (金纸, joss paper), an essential offering.

What is tomb sweeping?

Chinese family would hoe, weed and clean the tomb and touch up headstone inscriptions before making offerings to the deceased. Then the deceased’s favorite food and beverages would be served and incense would be lighted before kowtowing. Since Chinese people believe in hereafter, they may burn joss paper (faux cash), paper imitations of mobile phones, air-conditioners, luxury cars and houses in the hope that the deceased would have a great afterlife.

The legend behind Qingming

The festival was a memorial of a loyal follower called Jiè zǐtuī (介子推). During the years of exile, he once even cut meat from his own thigh to provide meat soup for his duke. The duke wanted to reward him but accidentally killed him and his mother in a fire. The duke then ordered three days without fire to honor Jiè zǐtuī. People had to eat cold food for three days.

Famous poem “Qīng míng” (清明):

Famous poem “Qīng míng” (清明)

Qīng míng (清明) is a well-known poem by Tang Dynasty poet Dù Mù (杜牧). It depicts a sad scene in early September.

A drizzling rain falls on the mourning Day,

The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way.

Inquiring, where can a wineshop be found,

A cowherd points to Apricot Flower Village in the distance.

(Translationfrom Wikipedia)


  1. On Tomb Sweeping Day, what are burned as an offering to the dead other than jīnzhǐ (金纸, joss paper)? Paper currency? Paper house?
  2. Are females allowed to do the prayers and offerings to the ancestors and gods?

See answer on Culture Notes of Chat to Learn Chinese Apps on Google Play Store or IOS App Store.

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