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© Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Last updated on 13 July 2011 (1 headword). No reproduction without permission.

Qing Ming Festival /ching ming, tʃɪŋ mɪŋ/ n. [Mand. 清明 Qīngmíng Jié Pure Brightness Festival: Qīngmíng Pure Brightness, the fifth of the 24 Chinese solar terms < qīng clear, pure + míng bright, brilliant, light; clear, distinct + jié festival] Also ellipt. Qing Ming; Ching Ming Festival, ellipt. Ching Ming.  A Chinese festival held on the first day of the fifth solar term of the Chinese year, around the end of the second lunar month or the beginning of the third lunar month (in the Gregorian calendar, on 4 April in leap years or 5 or 6 April in other years), the 104th day after the Winter Solstice Festival [Mand. 冬至 Dōngzhì Extreme Winter: dōng winter + zhì extremely, most] which falls on 21 or 22 December, or the 15th day after the Spring Equinox; the festival marks the transition from spring to summer. During the festival the graves of ancestors are visited and tended to [in Mand. 扫墓 sǎomù sweep a grave; fig. pay respects to a dead person at his tomb: sǎo sweep, clear away + grave, tomb, mausoleum] and respects are paid to deceased ancestors through rituals such as the offering of flowers, food and joss-paper; the burning of joss-sticks and Hell Money, etc.
¶ The festival is said to have originated from the Cold Food Festival [Mand. 寒食节 Hánshí Jié: Hán cold + shí meal, food + Jié festival], previously kept on the day before the Qing Ming Festival. According to Chinese legend, the festival was held in memory of Jie Zitui who lived during the Spring and Autumn Period (春秋 Chūnqiū Shídài) (722–481 b.c.). Ji Zhong’er (697–618 b.c.), the eldest son of Duke Xian of the Jin State [Mand. 晋国 Jìn Guó], was falsely accused of rebellion by one of the Duke’s concubines because she wanted her own son to be crown prince. Zitui, a loyal retainer of Zhong’er, smuggled him out of Jin by night. As Zhong’er had always shown concern for his people’s welfare, Zitui did his best to care for the prince during exile, to the extent of cutting flesh from his leg and cooking it for Zhong’er when they were on the verge of starvation. He did so in the hope that when Zhong’er returned to Jin he would be a benevolent and dutiful ruler. After the death of the concubine, soldiers were sent to look for Zhong’er and escort him home. Entering his carriage, Zhong’er saw an official packing an old mat on to a horse. Laughing, he said, “What on earth is the use of that? Throw it away!” Zitui heard this and concluded that the prince would share only hardship with him but not prosperity. He therefore went into the mountains to live with his elderly mother in seclusion. When Zhong’er finally became Duke Wen of Jin, he rewarded those who had assisted him during his exile but forgot what Zitui had done for him. Upon being reminded, he immediately sent for Zitui but he did not come. Plagued by guilt, Duke Wen and his ministers tried in vain to find Zitui in the mountains; he then ordered the mountain forests set on fire, believing that Zitui, as a filial son, would surely flee the blaze with his mother. After the fire had burned for three days and three nights, Zitui and his mother were found dead under a willow tree, with a note written in blood by Zitui to Duke Wen: “I cut off my flesh as a dedication to wish that you, my king, will always be clear and bright.” Duke Wen, bitterly regretting his actions and extremely saddened, decreed that the day was to be observed in memory of Zitui as the Cold Food Festival, on which no fire or smoke was permitted and only cold food was to be eaten. During the Qing Dynasty [Mand. 清朝 Qīng Cháo] (1644–1911) observance of the Cold Food Festival merged with that of the Qing Ming Festival.
2006 The Sunday Times (from Straits Times Interactive), 26 March. Visitor tips for Qing Ming [title]. Crowds are expected at Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetery and the four government columbaria from today until April 16, as people pay respects to their ancestors during the Qing Ming festival. .. Qing Ming, which falls on April 5 this year, is when the Chinese remember and honour their ancestors. They visit their graves or niches, taking food offerings and burning joss paper.

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