Chinese Qingming (Clear Brightness or Tomb Sweeping) Festival

The 1st day of the 5th solar term is the Qingming (Chinese: 清明节, 清明節) for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and to tend to the graves of departed ones. Qingming Festival is the 15th day after the Spring Equinox occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar.

The Qingming Festival is commonly translated as the Clear Bright Festival or the Tomb Sweeping Day.

The Chinese Qingming Festival falls on the following dates in the Gregorian calendar:

Year 2010MondayApril 5, 2010Chinese Qingming Festival
Year 2011TuesdayApril 5, 2011Chinese Qingming Festival
Year 2012WednesdayApril 4, 2012Chinese Qingming Festival
Year 2013TuesdayApril 4, 2013Chinese Qingming Festival
Year 2014SaturdayApril 5, 2014Chinese Qingming Festival
Year 2015SundayApril 5, 2015Chinese Qingming Festival


During the Spring and Autumn Period (Chinese: 春秋战国时期), the Duke Wen of Jin (Chinese: 晋文公) created the Hanshi Festival (Chinese: 寒食节) to commemorate the loyalty of his friend and servant Jie Zhitui (Chinese: 介之推). On Hanshi Festival, the day before the solar term Qingming (Chinese: 清明), people were not allowed to use fires to cook or heat up food (eat cold food only), and hang willow branches on doors to show respect to Jie Zhitui, because he was killed with his mother by a fire next to a willow tree. The fire was actually set up by Duke Wen hoping to force Jie Zhitui to come out of his hiding place in the mountains.

The Qingming Festival itself was created by the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732. It is said that because the wealthy held too many expensive, elaborate ancestor-worshipping ceremonies, in a needed effort to lower this expense, Emperor Xuanzong declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestor's graves only on Qingming.

Gradually, people combined traditions of the Hanshi Festival into the Qingming Festival and kept as a one-day festival.


The most important activaty on the Qingming Festival is tomb sweeping to remember and honour one's ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, and/or libation to the ancestors. The rites are very important to most Chinese and especially farmers.

Some people carry willow branches with them, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors. They think that willow branches help ward off the evil ghosts that wander on Qingming.

People also go on family outings, start the spring plowing, sing, dance, and Qingming is a time where young couples start courting.

Another popular thing to do is fly kites (in shapes of animals, or characters from Chinese opera).

Qingming Poem

Qingming was frequently mentioned in Chinese literature. Among these, the most famous one is probably Du Mu's poem (simply titled "Qingming"):

    《清明》 (唐) 杜牧


English translation

    A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day;
    The mourner's heart is breaking on his way.
    Where can a hostel be found to drown his sadness?
    A cowherd points to Xing Hua village in the distance.