The Qingming Festival (traditional Chinese: 清明節; simplified Chinese: 清明节), meaning Clear Bright Festival, is a traditional Chinese ancestors day. Its calculation is on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5 of the Chinese calender. For 2012, the festival falls on April 4 and this holiday is from April 2 to 4, and is a public holiday. Chinese people treat it as an agriculture festival and a family day to commemorate their ancestors.
Qingming Festival (also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-sweeping Day) is one of the Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms as well. From that date temperatures begin to rise and rainfall increases, indicating that it is the crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring. Qingming Festival therefore has a close relationship with agriculture. However, it is not only a seasonal symbol; it is also a festival of paying respect to the dead, a spring outing, and other activities.
Qingming Festival was originally held to commemorate a loyal man living in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), named Jie Zitui. Jie cut a piece of meat from his own leg in order to save his hungry lord who was forced to go into exile when the crown was in jeopardy. The lord came back to his power nineteen years later, and forgot Jie Zitui but later felt ashamed and decided to reward him. However, Jie had blocked himself up in a mountain with his mother. In order to find Jie, the lord ordered that the mountain should be set on fire. Later Jie was found dead with his mother. In order to commemorate Jie, the lord ordered that the day Jie died was Hanshi (Cold Food) Festival - the day that only cold food could be served. The second year, when the lord went to the mountain to sacrifice to Jie, he found willows revived, so he gave instructions that the day after Hanshi Festival was to be Qingming Festival. Later, the two festivals were combined as one - Qingming Festival.
This festival is a time of many different activities, among which the main ones are tomb sweeping, taking spring outing trip, and flying kites. Tomb sweeping is regarded as the most important custom in the Qingming Festival from which the name of Tomb-sweeping day is got. Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead person with offerings are the two important parts of remembering the past relatives. The festival is a combination of sadness and happiness.
Today, with cremation taking over from burying, the custom has been extremely simplified in cities. Only flowers are presented to the dead relatives and revolutionary martyrs. No matter how respect is shown, good prayers for the deceased are expressed.
This festival is also a festival for people to enjoy themselves. During March, everything in nature takes on a new look, as trees turn green, flowers blossom, and the sun shines brightly. It is a fine time to go out and to appreciate the beautiful scenes of nature during the festival. This outing trip not only add joy but also promote health.
Spring outings not only add joy to life but also promote a healthy body and mind. In Jiangsu, some cities also have activity, flying kites, favored by many locals.