Tomb Sweeping Festival Vocabulary
This week marks another important holiday in Chinese Culture – the Tomb Sweeping Festival. This traditional Chinese festival is all about honoring ancestors who have passed away. Here’s a little background and some Tomb Sweeping Festival vocabulary to help you understand a bit more about this day.
Tomb Sweeping Day is celebrated on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, and the Chinese name can literally be translated as the “Pure Brightness Festival” (清明节 – qīng míng jié). As with most holidays in China, there is an interesting legend associated with the Tomb Sweeping Festival. It goes back to an ancient holiday known as the Cold Food Festival (寒食节 – hán shí jié), which honored a nobleman named Jie Zhitui who died in an unfortunate fire set by the prince Chong’er. He was simply trying to get Jie out of the forest in order to repay him for his great service. A few days were dedicated to honor him, during which time fire was banned. Because of the history, it’s still a tradition to eat cold food (冷食 – lěng shí).
The main activity around Tomb Sweeping Day is ancestor worship (祭祖 – jì zǔ). On this day, people will make many offerings (祭品 – jì pǐn) to their deceased ancestors. For example, people will burn incense (烧香 – shāo xiāng) or paper money (纸钱 – zhǐ qián). However, the burning of paper money has been banned in many cities due to the pollution it causes. Instead, people use chrysanthemums (菊花 – jú huā) because of their flame-like petals.
On Qing Ming, families will visit a cemetery (墓地 – mù dì) to find the tombs (坟墓 – fén mù) of their ancestors. Although, young children are not allowed, as they feel they will see the dead ancestors. They will then sweep the tomb (扫墓 – sǎo mù) and leave some offerings such as flowers, cigarettes, food, and even paper iPhones. The belief is that these things can all be used in the afterlife. It’s important to keep the spirits of deceased ancestors happy, as it’s believed that they continue to look after the family from the great beyond.
Traditionally on Qingming, people will hang willow branches over their doors to ward away evil spirits and, as with most Chinese festivals, there’s also a food and drink element: “Tomb Sweeping Day” sees people snack on green glutinous rice balls known as qingtuan and it’s also a crucial period for tea production in China. Thanks to its timing at the start of spring, the Tomb Sweeping Festival is also all about getting outside for a spring outing (踏青 – tà qīng). The most popular activity to enjoy at the start of spring is flying a kite (放风筝 – fàng fēng zhēng).
After doing some research I found some interesting sites, creating things out of paper in order to burn it to the ancestors! Literally you can get anything and burn it!
Learn more and read on for the vocabulary list, to enrich your personal Chinese Education:
- 清明节qīng míng jié Qing Ming Festival
- 寒食节hán shí jié Cold Food Festival
- 祭祖jì zǔ ancestor worship
- 祭品jì pǐn offerings
- 烧香shāo xiāng burning incense
- 纸钱zhǐ qián paper money
- 菊花jú huā chrysanthemum
- 冷食lěng shí cold food
- 墓地mù dì cemetery
- 坟墓fén mù grave
- 扫墓sǎo mù sweeping the tomb
- 踏青tà qīng spring outing
- 放风筝fàng fēng zhēng fly a kite
- 青团qīng tuán green dumplings