Ancestor worship as been an important part of Chinese history for as far back as 600BC. Today was yet another way the Chinese people pay respect to their family that has passed on into the next life.
As always I researched some information about this day to enlighten myself about the traditional things for which this country is famous. As always in China there is a story to why the day was started.
Qinming Festival originated from Hanshi Day (寒食节, literally, Day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui (介子推, or Jie Zhitui, 介子推). 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 honour Jie’s memory. The county where Jie died is still called Jiexiu (介休, literally “the place Jie rests forever”).
This is taken from Wikipedia.com
Such an interesting story and from what I could tell it is would be equal to our Memorial Day Celebrations. In which we visit the graves or our relatives and place flowers and mementos upon it. I even recall cleaning the top of my grandmother’s grave when I last visited it.
Although our memorial process is quite simple the Chinese have special traditions that they must perform on this auspicious day.
In ancient times, the Chinese people would celebrate Qing Ming Jie with dancing, singing, picnics, and kite flying. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the opening of life. In the capital city, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate the renewing nature of spring. In the villages, young men and women would court each other. Due to the fact that this day represented New Birth and is always celebrated in spring.
Nowadays, this celebration has become a day to the honor past ancestors. Following folk religion, the Chinese believe that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Therefore, sacrifices of food and spirit money must be given to keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and more children.
Today, Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt is swept away, and the family will set out the offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the sacrifices at a family’s home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland food. When asked why…some say is that because ghosts roam around a grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the ancestors, and not be plundered by ghosts.
To honor the ancestors the Chinese begin with proper positioning of a gravesite and coffin. Unfortunately, so many people living in China most people have their family in public cemetaries and not the private gravesites they once had. Family elders usually visit the gravesites at least once a year to tend to the tombs.
Because many graves and crematorium are located in remote locations and sometimes families need to visit more than one grave; a trip to clean and pray during the festival can start from the crack of dawn and end only late at night. Many times they take the entire family on these trips so the parents can teach the children the tradition.
Since I did not have any graves here to visit and my husband’s immediate family is actually all still alive. He did not have to attend the ceremony. Only his grandparents and parents went to visit his great-grandparents graves.
We took this on free day to visit our friends in the next town. They had already finished their ceremonies and we very rarely have days off; so we decided to meet.
As with another Chinese tradition, the friend who lives in the town we visit is the friend who takes care of the bill and plans the day. So, the afternoon started with us .. going to the bus station to find a damn bus to take us to the town that is about 30 minutes away from where we live. The buses were full .. no seats available.. which figures since it was a national holiday. We just said forget it .. and took a car taxi all the way there. (not really bad..55rmb)
After we arrived.. we walked around a little to see the city and waited for all our friends to arrive. Then went to have a nice Chinese lunch.. when I say Chinese lunch I do not just mean the food .. but the time.. the lunch is in a private room in a restaurant and lasted for approximately 3 hours. (smile) .. yeah.. the Chinese like to take their time when they eat… and eat a lot of different dishes… we had about 14 dishes to eat.. and almost finished them all…
After we were stuffed to the gills, we decided to walk around a little and see the sites..then ended up at a tea house for ice cream and fruity drinks. All in all … it was a very nice day… lucky for us.. one of my friend offered to drive us back to our place in the next town on his way home, so no dealing with the bus.
However, by the time we got home.. the both of us was exhausted.. and we just fell on the sofa together and went to sleep…..funny how eating and walking and sitting can make you so tired… hehehe…
until next time….