The Qingming Festival
It is one of the four major traditional festivals, namely, the Spring Festival, the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, that are celebrated by the Chinese. It is the only Chinese festival which occurs on one of the solar terms of the traditional calendar, usually on April 4, 5 or 6. Prior to the Tang Dynasty, Qingming functioned primarily as one of the 24 solar terms that reflected natural changes of seasons and were closely associated with timing of agricultural activities. After the Tang and Song dynasties, Qingming took the place of the Hanshi (“Cold Food”) Festival, and the practices of sweeping ancestral graves and eating cold food became prominent features of the Qingming Festival. At this time of year, with the coming of spring, all living things are bursting with vitality, and people go on country outings, plant willows, fly kites and play on swings. Today, Qingming has remained a festival of special significance to the Chinese. On May 20, 2006, it was put on the first list of national-level intangible cultural heritages by the Chinese government.
In the drizzling rain of Qingming, / A traveler walks with a heavy heart. / He asks, “Where can I find an inn?” / In response, a cowherd points to a village where apricot trees are in bloom. (Du Mu: Qingming)
When the swallows return, it is the Spring Observance; / And after the pear blossoms fall, it is Qingming. (Yan Shu: Pozhenzi)