Things you need to know about Qingming Festival

( ) Updated: 2014-04-04 16:08:05
Things you need to know about Qingming Festival

People mourn for their deceased relatives at a cemetery in Shanghai, east China, March 30, 2014. The Qingming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day, which falls on April 5 this year, is a traditional Chinese festival for mourning the dead. [Photo/Xinhua]

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Qingming Festival, means clear and bright in Chinese, is the day for mourning the dead. It falls on April 5. It corresponds with the onset of warmer weather, the start of spring plowing, and family outings.

Before we talk about Qingming, we must say something about another ancient event, Hanshi, which always comes one day before the Qingming Festival. Hanshi literally means cold food.It is said that in the seventh century BC during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), Duke Xiao was the monarch of the state of Jin. His eldest son, Shen Sheng should have inherited the throne on the death of his father. But Duke Xiao had other plans. He wanted the son of his favorite concubine, Li Ji,to succeed him as the ruler of Jin. Not exactly a loving father, Duke Xiao had Shen Sheng murdered and would have done the same to his second eldest son, Chong'er, but Chong'er got wind of this and fled.

For 19 years, Chong'er and his entourage of loyal officials and servants wandered homeless. One day, Chong'er was actually starving and close to death. one of his most faithful followers, Jie Zitui, cut a slice of muscle from his own leg and served it to his master, thereby saving his life. Finally in 636 BC ,Chong'er managed to take the throne that was tightfully his and took the official title of Duke Wen of the Jin state.

After becoming the ruler of the state, Chong'er decided to reward the officials who had stayed with him through his years of wandering. But he forgot about Jie Zitui who had sacrificed the flesh of his leg. Jie Zitui was heartbroken and went away. Later Chong'er remembered Jie Zitui's sacrifice and sent people to look for him. Eventually they found him. Chong'er went in person to apologize and ask him to return to the royal court. But Jie Zitui left them and went deep into the mountains, so no one could find him again. Someone advised Chong'er to set fire to the mountain in order to force Jie Zitui into the open, where he could be talked into returning to the comforts of life in the royal house. Chong'er took this advice and set fire to the mountain where Jie Zitui was believed to be hiding. The fires raged for three days and Jie Zitui was found leaning against a large tree, carrying his old mother on his back. Both Jie Zitui and his mother were dead .

Chong'er was deeply saddened by this tragedy. He ordered that a temple be built in memory of his most loyal follower. He also ordered that no fires were allowed on the anniversary of Jie Zitui's death. So people had to eat cold food on that day-the day of Hanshi. In addition, people began to visit Jie Zitui's tomb and pay their respects to his memory.

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