A Friendly Guide to Tomb-sweeping Day (Qingming Festival) in China

Introduction to Tomb-Sweeping Day

Observed annually on April 4 or 5, Qingming Festival清明节(Qīngmíng jié), also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese holiday. They tidy up and beautify the graves of their ancestors on this day, make offerings, and spend time with their families as a way of paying respect to and remembering them. Tomb-Sweeping Day has a rich cultural past in China, and in this essay we will explore its traditions, vocabulary, and history to help you better understand and appreciate it.

Origin and History

Ancestor worship, which dates back more than 2,500 years, is where the Qingming Festival started. The celebration’s beginnings may be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty when families gathered to honor and remember their departed loved ones. Tomb-Sweeping Day has changed over time to become a day of introspection, family togetherness, and gratitude for the values and customs handed down through the ages.

Customs and Traditions

Cleaning and Decorating the Tombs

Family members go there to upkeep and tidy the graves of their ancestors. As a mark of respect and remembrance, they can pull weeds, sweep the tombstone, and put new flowers there.

Offering Food and Incense

Food and incense are left at the tomb to show that the dead provide physical and spiritual nourishment. Wine, pastries, and fruits are frequent offerings. 

Burning Joss Paper

Ghost money or spirit money, or joss paper, is burned as a sacrifice to the dead. Burning joss paper grants the deceased access to wealth and resources in the afterlife.

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Tomb-Sweeping Day Vocabulary

  • 清明节 (qīngmíng jié) – Tomb-Sweeping Day/Qingming Festival
  • 扫墓 (sǎomù) – tomb-sweeping
  • 祭祖 (jìzǔ) – ancestor worship
  • 点香 (diǎnxiāng) – lighting incense
  • 烧纸钱 (shāo zhǐqián) – burning joss paper
  • 墓地 (mùdì) – cemetery
  • 鲜花 (xiānhuā) – fresh flowers
  • 香烛 (xiāngzhú) – incense and candles
  • 祭品 (jìpǐn) – ritual offerings
  • 风筝 (fēngzhēng) – kite
  • 供品 (gòngpǐn) – offerings
  • 祭祀 (jìsì) – sacrificial ceremony
  • 宗族 (zōngzú) – clan, family lineage
  • 祖先 (zǔxiān) – ancestors
  • 祖坟 (zǔfén) – ancestral tomb

Ancient Chinese Poem Related to Tomb-sweeping Day

There is a well-known ancient Chinese poem that expresses the feelings and ambiance of the event and is connected to or invokes the spirit of Tomb-Sweeping Day.

清明 (Qīngmíng) – Tomb-Sweeping Day 

Author: 杜牧 (Dù Mù)

清明时节雨纷纷 (qīngmíng shíjié yǔ fēnfēn) 

路上行人欲断魂 (lùshàng xíngrén yù duànhún)

借问酒家何处有 (jièwèn jiǔjiā héchù yǒu)

牧童遥指杏花村 (mùtóng yáo zhǐ xìng huācūn)

English Translation:

On Tomb-Sweeping Day, there is a lot of drizzle.

On the road, travelers experience a breakdown of their souls.

Asking where the nearest tavern is located,

The shepherd boy gestures in the direction of Apricot Flower Village.


1.What are some common Tomb-Sweeping Day customs?

Tomb maintenance and decoration, food and incense offerings, joss paper burning, and taking part in family activities are all common customs.

2.What is the significance of burning joss paper?

Burning joss paper, commonly referred to as ghost money or spirit money, is a practice used to leave money and resources for the dead to use in the hereafter.

3.How can I learn more about Tomb-Sweeping Day and Chinese culture?

Consider learning the Chinese language, reading books and articles, watching documentaries, or traveling to China to experience the customs firsthand if you want to understand more about Tomb-Sweeping Day and Chinese culture.

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