April 5, 2010
April 5, 2011
April 4, 2012
Two weeks after the spring equinox (usually April 5) the Chinese spend this day with their beloved departed. Qing Ming, or Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few Chinese holidays to follow the solar calendar rather than the lunar.
On this day families travel together to the grave’s of their loved ones to honor their memory. It’s believed that the spirits of family members who have passed on continue to watch over the family.
The holiday has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, originating with a Chinese Emperor who honored the memory of a royal official who sacrificed his life to save the Emperor.
Today relatives try to ensure their ancestors’ happiness in many different ways. Some sweep away the underbrush and dirt that has accumulated, and decorate their graves with flowers. Others cook the favorite dish of the departed. It’s traditional to burn ‘fake’ money or paper models of other goods, but this year Chinese officials are concerned about dry conditions conducive to fires, and are encouraging other methods of honoring the dead, such as planting trees.
The cemeteries are swamped with visitors this day. Officials estimate 100,000 people will visit the Babaoshan cemetery in Beijing today.
Meanwhile a new tradition is developing online where relatives can light virtual candles and carry on the traditions of Qing Ming in cyberspace.
The 2008 Tomb Sweeping Day is an historic event in that it has been declared a national public holiday for the first time.