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The Qingming Festival


The Qingming Festival is a Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese. It is celebrated in parts of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. The Qingming Festival typically falls on April 4th or 5th. In 2021, it falls on Sunday, April 4th.

Qingming is also closely related to the arrival of spring, and is also called the Taqing Festival. Taqing means “spring outing,” and it marks the beginning of the season where the weather warms up and people can spend more time outside. For this reason, people also go outside during Qingming and participate in sports to celebrate the impending arrival of spring.

During the Qingming festival, Chinese families visit the graves of their ancestors to clean the headstones, pray, and make ritual offerings. People clean the tombs, remove weeds, and may place flowers or willow branches on the tomb. The ritual offerings typically include traditional food and the burning of joss paper, which is also known as ghost or spirit money. Joss paper is sheets made from bamboo paper or rice paper that are burned to ensure the deceased has good things in the afterlife.

During Qingming, some people wear willow branches or place the branches on their gates and front doors. The willow branches are believed to ward off wandering evil spirits during the Qingming Festival. The fact that willows are considered to have special properties likely came from Buddhism. In traditional pictures, the Buddhist goddess of compassion and mercy Guanyin is often shown sitting with a willow branch in a vase of water beside her.

The Qingming Festival has been celebrated for over 2,500 years. It began during the Zhou Dynasty with the extravagant ceremonies that emperors and wealthy citizens would hold in honor of their ancestors. However, in 732, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty tried to limit these lavish ceremonies by declaring that people could only pay respect to their ancestors at their graves once a year, during Qingming.