origin stories

Ever thought of how Qingming Festival and the practice of Tomb Sweeping came about? Well it’s speculated that the name came from the seasons in China during the festive season which was, you guessed it — Bright & clear.

The Cold Food Festival was a day before Qingming and festivities from one would usually roll over to the other. Eventually, Qingming Jie took over the Cold Food Festival as there were more people observing it.

Dating back to 600 B.C., legend goes that Jie Zitui who lived in the Shanxi province, saved his own lord, Chong Er, from starving by serving a piece of flesh from his very own leg. When Chong Er became a Duke, he invited Jie to join him but he rejected his offer and chose to stay in the mountains to take care of his mother. In a plot to force Jie out of the mountains, Chong Er ordered his men to set the mountain on fire. The plan failed as Jie chose to stay behind and was eventually burned to death. On the day of Jie’s death anniversary, Chong Er ordered all fires to be put out as a form of commemoration. Having that said, food eaten during the festival would be cold and therefore, that’s how the Cold Food Festival came about!

Scholars also believed the custom of tomb-sweeping came from commemorating Jie’s death and this practice was carried on as a tradition to honor one’s ancestors. The two festivals were so close together which eventually combined into one and the practice of eating cold food and going without fire for extended periods eventually died out. Since then, Qingming has become a tradition to the Chinese community. 

Keen to find out more on what you should do on this day of remembrance? Jump into the know-hows and take it away!

The above story and information is extracted from: 李露露. (2012). 中国节 : 图说民间传统节日. 福州: 福建人民出版社, p. 83 清明节 Tomb-Sweeping Day (China).mp4, timecode – 07:00-07:15. Asiapac Books (2012). Chinese Folk Customs. Singapore, p. 64-65
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